+ a writing prompt for you to use this week
None of us leaves the world unmarked by grief. Loss is an inevitable part of being human. Whether our acquaintance with grief comes suddenly, early, gradually, or finally, we each carry its scars and souvenirs.
In my work writing with groups around loss, I’ve noticed a compounding of grief in recent years. Grief over the death of a spouse, a child, or a parent is often acute. In addition to this kind of specific grief, so many now are grieving multiple losses. We carry grief over the upheaval that Covid brought. We mourn continuing racial injustice and a resurgence in tolerated bigotry. We are worn down by violent words and events that roll past our ears and eyes daily.
How are you holding up?
Who are the people with whom you can speak (or write) about your own grief?
I just returned from a gathering of faith formation leaders. They are some of my people—friends, and colleagues from the last 30 years, creatively serving in ministry together. Most of us are weary, but we are also hopeful. Having a few days to feed our own souls means we have more to give back home.
I was able to feed my soul by leading a workshop on writing for healing with some lovely folks, who bravely wrote and read. There is some kind of magic alchemy that settles over a room when people are writing together. Our breathing slows down. Our restless minds begin to quiet. Our heartbeats might even sync up as we listen attentively to one another’s words. Even a too-short time together helps us all carry our grief easier afterward. This is why the writing group of bereaved mothers I belong to has continued to meet for 20 years.
What helps you carry your grief?
In an interview from 2018, Ada Limón makes a case for poetry. As I read her words, I think any kind of reflective writing practice can do the same:
I think poetry is a way of carrying grief, but it’s also a way of putting it somewhere so I don’t always have to heave it onto my back or in my body. The more I put grief in a poem, the more I am able to move freely through the world because I have named it, spoken it, and thrown it out into the sky. Everyone has grief that they carry and sometimes we have anxiety and depression about anticipatory grief. The thing that I’ve found that helps is knowing we are all in this, someone has gone or is going through the same thing. Poetry helps us with that too. Writing. Reading. As James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, and then you read.” —Ada Limón
a poetry writing prompt
Here’s a poem from Mary Oliver that might help you carry your grief today as you read it or write in response to it.
Heavy —by Mary Oliver That time I thought I could not go any closer to grief without dying I went closer, and I did not die. Surely God had his hand in this, as well as friends. Still, I was bent, and my laughter, as the poet said, was nowhere to be found. Then said my friend Daniel, (brave even among lions), “It’s not the weight you carry but how you carry it – books, bricks, grief – it’s all in the way you embrace it, balance it, carry it when you cannot, and would not, put it down.” So I went practicing. Have you noticed? Have you heard the laughter that comes, now and again, out of my startled mouth? How I linger to admire, admire, admire the things of this world that are kind, and maybe also troubled – roses in the wind, the sea geese on the steep waves, a love to which there is no reply?
What will your lingering on the page help you notice, carry, or admire today?
If you are looking for a group with whom to practice using your words to lighten the load of whatever you are carrying, consider a paid subscription. You’ll be able to join a small group online as we write in company together monthly.
like | comment | share
There should be cute little icons below where you can like, comment or share this post. Let me know what you think about the prompt, or come back and add some of what you write in the comments. Know someone who might enjoy this prompt or others? Please share!