A while ago, I shared this beautiful interview with poet Edward Hirsch on the topic of grief. I listened to it again recently, and reread his heartbreaking poem, Gabriel. It moved me just as much as it did the first time.
You may be wondering why an interview with a poet about the death of his son has a place here, but listen carefully to what he says about loss, mourning, and the process of healing. So much of what he has to say is what I’ve also learned about healing from loss.
“There is no right way to grieve, and you have to let people grieve in the way that they can. One of the things that happens to everyone who is grief-stricken, who has lost someone, is there comes a time when everyone else just wants you to get over it, but of course you don’t get over it. You get stronger; you try and live on; you endure; you change; but you don’t get over it. You carry it with you.”
In his 78-page elegy to his son, he writes that mourning is like carrying a bag of cement up a mountain at night. There is no clear path to follow, but when you look around you, you see everyone carrying their own bags of cement.
As a poet, Hirsch used his writing, not as a way to escape grief, but as a way to express what he couldn’t otherwise say. One of the most striking points he makes is on the topic of healing and how our society talks about the need to heal. But, he says, in order to heal, you have to be able to grieve first.
Most of us have faced a lack of understanding about the loss we’ve experienced because we didn’t get to be mothers. We have no place to express that loss, and without facing it and acknowledging it, we don’t get to grieve and we don’t get to heal.
If you’re struggling with loss, have you found a way to express your grief? Even if you’re not a writer, could putting your feelings down in words help you move through your grief? I know it has helped me through mine.