Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Poetry Month Day 9: Humor, Badly Timed

April 9, 2021

It’s all timing and audience.

The feeling of having a joke
that is absolutely
but having to one to tell it to
well that’s rough.

I mean, I know
what I’m saying is
WILDLY inappropriate.
Maybe even dark.
It’s also

And I can’t even laugh as loud as I would if I heard that joke myself because who laughs out loud at a time like this anyway, I mean board meetings and Yom Kippur services and brother’s funerals are all NOT laughing matters and how dare I laugh right now but I can’t escape the humor of some things so I swallow it down and half hope my face conceals the laughter below and half hope that someone will ask me why I’m almost smiling and half hope they’re a person who’d get it if I told them.

But just know.
if you see an certain expression on my face,
you don’t actually want to know what I’m thinking.
but if you’re the sort who would,
you asked for it.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Poetry Month Day 2: Now it Makes Sense

April 2, 2021

The last days
have felt
like my shoes were on
the wrong feet,
like the stuck wheel
on a shopping cart
or the rattle at the front end
of the car
that has to mean something,
if I could figure out what

I can’t for the life
of me
why words won’t come,
why they feel so heavy and slow,
why they sink
beyond my grasp
why I resist
taking the time to
sit in my
own self
to figure out why

And then
I check the calendar:
Jess would have been twenty

And I know
I’ll have to
write of her

And I know
I will

And I know
my entire self
will brace
against the pain
against the keen muscle memory
of grief
my breath will catch
to feel it sharp, sharper
without knowing how
or when
or if
it may subside.

Upon Re-Entry

November 17, 2020
From a flower fairy

I’ve been here.

I’ve returned to school after a devastating loss before, and I did it again today.

Days like these are strange, tiring and full of uncertainty. Will I be able to hold myself together? Can I make it through? Do I have it in me to accept the “we missed you’s,” the knowing eyes and nods, and not break down into a blubbery mess?

I felt like one of those candies – the cherry cordials. The one with the waxy hard shell and the super gooey insides.

I hate cherry cordials.

Had it not been for the “soft landing” gifts my colleagues left me –

had it not been for the air hugs I was offered in the hallways –

had it not been for texts with little more than a heart or the word “hug” –

had it not been for friends to arrange dinner, or a bottle of wine, or an errand –

had it not been for supervisors who offered grace and assistance beyond what I could hope to expect –

had it not been for family members who gave unconditional support and validation –

had it not been for the notes of sympathy from students of mine who just wanted to reach out –

had it not been for flowers that awaited me after a long drive home from the funeral –

had it not been for my husband and son, whose physical presence at that funeral meant more than I could say –

had it not been for the power of hugs when they are discouraged but so desperately needed –

had it not been for a family not my own to take me as one of theirs in a time I felt utterly alone –

had it not been for friends who held me in love and compassion in those early nightmarish days –

this strong shell, already cracked to pieces, most certainly would have shattered.


September 19, 2020
From wikimedia commons. But…the picture that would BEST go with this poem? It’s on the side of a fridge somewhere, or somewhere in a big dusty photo album, or framed by someone’s bedside, or in someone’s wallet, or or or…

As we scroll through our newsfeeds
And text one another
And see post after post after post
And listen to the news
And speak to one another
Of her passing –

As we mourn her presence
In our world, her strength
In the face of adversity, her voice,
Silent –

As we claim her loss
With our own grief –

As we remember
Her work
Her dissent
Her fearlessness –

I can’t help but think
Of the shiva-sitters, her survived-bys:
Her children
Her grandchildren

Gathered together at home,
Sometimes hushed
Sometimes noisy in conversation
Celebrating a woman
Who sometimes kept condiments past their expiration
Who always answered the phone a certain way,
Remembering together
What soap she kept in the guest bathroom
Which living room chair was her favorite
What stories she read them
What kind of hugs she gave
How her hands felt to hold them

I think on them, and I see
Our own grand pain
Our outsized grief and agony
Writ small,
Etched deep.

in memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

Marking Time

April 18, 2020

Today marks five years since my brother’s passing.

Five years since I was working with my husband thinning out the hostas on an unseasonably warm April Saturday and I got the call that my brother was in the ER and that things didn’t look good, that I’d better come down quick.

Five years since I threw a bunch of random clothes in a bag and jumped in my car headed for St. Louis, only to be informed, as I’m turning onto the highway, that he had gone. That I was driving into the epicenter of a disaster that shook – that still shakes – our family to its core.

Five years since I sat awake that night on my parents’ couch, thinking of the devastation wrought upon them and my brother’s family.

I’ve written about my brother, or the way Grief and I have become close, over the last five years. I was thinking about which of those posts I might re-share today, which of those posts might best suit how I’m feeling.

And I suppose the one that I keep coming back to is the one that started it all. The one I composed that very first night, after talking countless times with my sisters over the phone, after sitting with my sister-in-law, and her son in their home, after being with my parents, and all of their grief. This one.

It surprises me how deeply it still reflects the way I see relationships, the way I see grief and compassion. I’ll leave it here for you today. Maybe some of you are in a space where you need it too:

So I heard this story the other day
About a guy
Who saw a lama for his pain.

And the lama
Had trained his heart
To grow big as the sea
So it could shoulder the
Burdens of the suffering
And replace them
With love.

The lama
Asked for the guy’s hands
And took them
Into his
And he asked for the guy’s grief
And took it
Into his heart
And the guy felt better.

I want to do that.

Not to be the guy.

The lama.

Let my heart swell
Let love flood.

Place your hands into mine.
I will ask for your pain
And my heart will open wide
And swallow your pain
In love.

(C) 2015, Lainie Levin.

#SOL20 Day 11 (Bonus): How Bad am I at Grief? (Or…will it always be too soon?)

March 11, 2020

In my daily blogroll, I came across Laughing Squid’s post about comedian Glen Tickle, whose Netflix special is in tribute to his late brother.

I can picture myself tuning in. I picture my own brother looking on from wherever he is, perhaps laughing along in that laugh I can never unhear, visiting me later on in my dreams to thank me for keeping him around a little longer in my thoughts.

It should be the kind of show I’m into. As a fellow human who lost a brother too soon, as someone who knows that grieving is messy and weird and difficult, I should find comfort and solace in sharing someone else’s experience. I should find a quiet hour and a box of tissues and dig in.


But as a human who knows that grieving is messy and weird and difficult, I don’t know that I have it in me.

And I’ve hung out long enough with Grief to know that Should has absolutely no business being anywhere in the room.

So it’s possible that I might watch the special, and it’s possible that it might offer solace and validation. It’s also possible I’ll pop in a DVD of Airplane, and think fondly on the guy who would text me random lines from that movie, who had crazy amazing dimples, who reduced everybody’s first names to single syllables, and who left this world way too soon.

Of course I’m serious about that. And don’t call me Shirley.