Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grief is love, turned into eternal missing.

I started this grief journal after Eliza died.  I didn't write my own thoughts in it--most of those got posted here, because I needed so much to put my reality out in the world and to hear back from other people who would say, "Me too, me too, me too."

But I had this little spiral bound blank book, and I put other people's words in it.  Quotations and poems and phrases that resonated with me.  Also pictures, sometimes.  Photographs or cut out of magazines.  The simple act of cutting and pasting was like a balm for my wounds--a predictable, easy, satisfying process.  Similar to copying down someone else's words.

It was like finding the perfect articulation of my emotion--in pictures or words--helped me to control it.  If I could name it, label it, express it in language that got as close as it could possibly get to experience...  there was some kind of relief in that.  And my own brain couldn't always (ever?) get it quite right.  So I relied on other people to do it.  Tennyson.  Elizabeth Edwards.  C. S. Lewis.  Lisel Meuller.  J. K. Rowling.  Many others.

A couple of nights ago, I wanted to read a certain poem again, make sure I was remembering it properly, and as I flipped through the grief book, I happened upon this sentence, carefully copied at the top of one page: "Grief is love, turned into eternal missing."

It's from a novel by Rosamund Lupton called Sister.  It's a mystery novel I read back in June when I was reading a novel a day to distract myself from a certain baby's imminent arrival.  I hadn't expected it to deal so much (or so well) with grief.

I also hadn't expected the plot to involve a stillborn baby.

Anyway, it did both, and also managed to be an engaging read.  I figured out the mystery before the novel revealed it, but the mystery wasn't the entire point, if you know what I mean.

And that simple sentence stuck with me.  So I wrote it in my grief book.  It's not particularly poetic or well-written and it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.  But the simple truth, simply stated.... sometimes that's good enough, you know?

Oh--and here's the poem I was actually looking for.  I first read it here and I have it posted now on the bulletin board above my desk.  I think about it more than almost anything else I've written in my grief book, and I looked it up the other night to get the words exactly right.  Every time I read it, it takes my breath away a little bit, and it kind of makes me want to cry, but in the good way.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous.
the gods wait to delight
in you.


  1. It is beautiful, thanks for sharing. I haven't read Bukowski in a long time and this was worth remembering. It's funny how I read things before my loss and thought I understood but now, post-loss, everything takes on a a different (more significant?) meaning.

  2. Oh my god, did I ever need to read that poem right now. I have been feeling lately like I am being "clubbed into dank submission." I'm going to copy this out, too, and remind myself that "there are ways out./ there is a light somewhere." Thanks, Brooke.

  3. "there is a light somewhere.
    it may not be much light but
    it beats the darkness."

    Wow. I've never read Bukowski. I always thought that I would hate him (the whole drunk thing turned me off), but now I think perhaps I was wrong.

  4. Undergrad poetry was a loooooooong time or so it seems; I needed to read this today , too. Thanks.