Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grief piles on Grief

Grief is tonight's topic in the 2nd of 5 sessions on death and dying.

One session can't possibly cover it all. We'll hear from 2 people in the congregation who are experienced grievers and a grief counselor will come to facilitate our conversation. We'll get a taste of what grief is like from people who can talk about it honestly and graciously. We'll be educated on how to be with a grieving person (hint: when in doubt, be quiet. Your presence is enough).

A grief counselor from our local hospital, Shady Grove, met with me this morning and gave me great handouts. She spoke of the varities of grief, not only from death but also divorce, moving, unemployment.

I remembered that once I wrote a poem about grief , so I searched my email out-box to see if I could find it. I found it and I also found 86 other messages where I had written about grief. Glancing through the emails was a reminder of the losses of the past 3 years: homes, jobs, churches, friends I've left. My grandmother died 2 years ago on the dot. I was in Namibia and couldn't make it home. I wrote something to be read at her funeral. I'd forgotten about it till today. I'd also forgotten that my sister and I had the exact same reaction to my grandma's death: we both told my mother she wasn't allowed to die.

The poem. I wrote it when I was an intern at Luther Place Memorial Church. My window looked down on the sidewalk of N Street Village, a center to help women break the cycle of homelessness. In my time there, I worked with the women and was struck by how much grief they all carried - abuse, illnesses, addictions, loss of family, dignity, mental acuity. A group sat on the sidewalk every day. The day I wrote this was an unusual day of snow. I'd gone out skiing in the afternoon. I returned to my office to see the women undaunted by the cold, still sitting, waiting for something.

Snow melts

Grief piles on grief, like
snowflakes accumulating on an overhead branch,

or the stack of crusty dishes in the sink that
I might throw away.

What amount of scouring will make them clean?

From this second story window I see
women working out their sorrow in

cigarettes and schizophrenia,
mindless chatter and simply sitting still, waiting

for some kind of scouring to make them clean.

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