Writing Poetry Through the Grief
My father passed away two years ago. Shock. That’s what I felt. I could not wrap my head around his death, around the concept of my father not existing anymore. I wandered aimlessly not knowing what day it was, or where I was supposed to be. Doctor’s appointment? Lunch with a friend? Who could remember? Who cared? Everyday events became mundane and meaningless. We had a Jewish funeral for my dad. His body was not embalmed. He was not dressed in a suit, but wrapped in white shrouds instead. Closed coffin. I shoveled dirt upon his coffin and said good-bye.
He died on a Saturday. I drove from Raleigh, NC to Flemington, NJ on a Sunday; we buried him on a Monday. I drove back home on a Tuesday. I stared at my calendar and realized with surprise that I had a full week of readings and workshops to conduct.
Friends told me, “Cancel them.” I shook my head. They just didn’t get it. These events had been booked months in advance and were difficult to arrange. One event, a workshop followed by a reading, had previously been cancelled due to snow. I could not cancel it again. So, I did the readings, taught the workshops. In a way – it was therapeutic – getting up in front of an audience to express myself through poetry. But it was exhausting. I hadn’t been sleeping well or eating right. I felt lost.
Then I decided I needed to work through my grief. I hadn’t really looked it in the eye. I did what writers do – I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. In one week I wrote twenty-four grief poems. My dad and I had a complicated relationship. Sadness, conflict, and grief flooded out on the pages. Each day I began to feel a little stronger, a tiny bit better
Healing myself through poetry – that’s what I have always done. I was grateful to have this creative outlet at my disposal to express myself. I wondered what my three brothers were doing to toil through their loss. I imagined them at work, either ignoring the grief, or keeping too busy to think about it. During this time of death and loss, I was glad to be a poet. Glad to have the mighty pen to propel me through these difficult weeks.
At my father’s funeral, even though upset, I stood up and recited a poem about the dead. I had no idea I held the strength to do this, but it was all I had to offer. I stood up and read a poem for my dad. My dad who had never heard me read before – he finally got to hear me read.