Talking To Grief

Talking To Grief

Grief is a journey we take in the privacy of our hearts. Perhaps we share it with our closest family or friends, a pastor, or a counselor. Mostly, we grieve in silence. There is little for us of ritual, of practice, of creating space to honor our loved one after the funeral, after flower arrangements wither, and the last casserole and baked ham is devoured. Denise Levertov's poem "Talking To Grief" inspired me to start this blog. I, Meridith Gresher, welcome you to join me as I talk aloud.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Season and Memory

Perhaps I should start with an apology because I know I said I would try to post something everyday. Indeed, I have thought of posting these past few days but have been unable. I am not a big crier, but I have been crying a lot. It is a double edged sword that I was so close to my grandparents. It means that I turn on the news and hear teachers in a certain district in Georgia are forbidden from wishing their students a Merry Christmas and I hear an exasperated expression, a ticking sound made with the tongue, then my grandma saying "Oh for God's sake." I can nearly laugh but I don't. If I could still pick up the phone and talk to her about how P.C. our world has become we'd be laughing.

This morning on "The Today Show" they featured a family that had their whole house and yard decked out in Christmas lights. My grandparents had nothing so extravagant and the decorating was courtesy of my uncle stringing the lights across the roof line and their front row of bushes, but the effect was welcoming and warm. as I'd drive up, especially after dark, knowing my uncle had wanted to do this for them in their later years to make the holiday special, knowing they'd turned on the lights for me, for the same reason.

The double edge is that although I have these memories and knew my grandparents so well they nearly speak from some place inside, they are not waiting for me. They do no wait for me to pick up the phone. They do not wait for me to accelerate down the long hill, even with foot on the brake, before turning up their drive to the little ranch with the large American flag in the yard and the Christmas lights glowing like gum drops. Often I could see their shadows through the blinds of the kitchen, sitting at the table, tv on, waiting near the door. For me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dorianne Laux's "How It Will Happen, When"

After reading the wonderful interview with Dorianne Laux in the fall edition of Southern Hum, I sought out her work. I have been falling in love with it the past several weeks. Late last night while I was up, not feeling well, too many thoughts in my head, I read "How It Will Happen, When."


How It Will Happen, When

There you are, exhausted from a night of crying, curled up on the couch,
the floor, at the foot of the bed, anywhere you fall you fall down crying,
half amazed at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry
anymore. And there they are, his socks, his shirt, your underwear
and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile next to the bathroom door,
and you fall down again. Someday, years from now, things will be
different, the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows
shining, sun coming in easily now, sliding across the high shine of wax
on the wood floor. You'll be peeling an orange or watching a bird
spring from the edge of the rooftop next door, noticing how,
for an instant, its body is stopped on the air, only a moment before
gathering the will to fly into the ruff at its wings and then doing it:
flying. You'll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word
you don't understand, a simple word like now or what or is
and you'll ponder over it like a child discovering language.
Is you'll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that's
when you'll say it, for the first time, out loud: He's dead. He's not
coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.

This poem is from Dorianne Laux's book Smoke, (BOA, editions 2000). Please visit Blue Flower Arts for more information on Dorianne Laux and her work

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

About The Holiday Season

This is a small note to say that I recognize the difficulty for the many grieving during this time of year. From this day forward, I will do my best to post daily to this blog: a poem, a quote, or a more personal entry of my own.

Peace and Blessing to You,

Meridith Gresher

"Remember" by Christina Rossetti


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day.
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

For more information and to read more works visit this page with more links for Christina Rossetti

The Lake

We're in daylight savings time. It gets dark early. I've come to the lake for the second time since you died. This time alone.

As I get out of my car, I approach the lake you loved, the lake where you wanted to live. There are teenagers clumped together, a dog tied up at the post, and another boy nearby an older model BMW. One man, middle-aged, feeds swans and ducks.

Yes, the swans. I am finally seeing them and I want to cry for the fact. But... there are too many people here. I take a seat on a large rock near the water's edge. You saw the swans, didn't you? Or did you only see one?

I remember you telling me about it as I stood at your desk the day after you'd been to the lake. We talked about why you only saw one swan, why it was without its mate. I believe this to be true. There are times I think I invent conversation. I remember standing at your desk. I am sure I stood at your desk talking about swans.

The man leaves with his dog once he empties the remnants of the bread bag. Ducks scatter as one swan swims toward me, expectant.

"Hello beautiful. I'm sorry, but I have nothing for you."

This swan looks at me, waits then back-peddles towards its mate, when I do not deliver any food. My eyes travel across the lake to the tree tops where the sun hangs so early in the evening sky. I hear what sounds like raspberries on a babies stomach and see the swans at play. Lovely and surprising. I've never thought of them as playful creatures.

Two teenage girls swing on the swingset, doing most of the talking, while a boy stands by as they try to impress him. You'd be shocked by their conversation. Or maybe you wouldn't.

Somewhere in the distance I hear Canada Geese. I miss you. It's getting cold now. It's getting close to your final days. It grows dark, but I think I can feel you here. I can hardly see my words on this page as I write. I will stop.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Grief For The Missing In Our Society And Project Jason

What must it be like to leave with the loss of a family member or friend who is missing? I pray I will never have to find out the answer. I pray you will never find an answer either. Think for a moment. Ask yourself what it must be like to perpetually wonder, fall between hope and despair, walk what must feel an eternal walk wanting yet fearing an answer. It must feel incredibly isolating and foreign. This is a season for giving thanks. If those you love best are all accounted for tonight, I humbly request you continue reading.

A few nights ago Larry King aired a show on CNN the topic was the adult missing in our country, specifically those cases which have gone cold. The show featured family members of the missing and a woman by the name of Monica Caison who has an organization called C.U.E. to help aid family members in their search for answers; I immediately went online to search out more information on both.

Doing so led me to a fellow blogger named Kelly Jolkowski who has created a blog, Voice 4 The Missing, and most importantly a non-profit organization, Project Jason, that helps bring support and resources to families with missing loved ones. She has done so in honor of her son Jason who has been missing since June 13, 2001.
Links for her as well as CUE are provided below.

I believe we all have the opportunity in our lives to create change within and without. Most choices are inconsequential in the moment: what we eat for breakfast, whom we let in our traffic line, or which shampoo we buy. They do add up to form the cross section we weave, a pattern of who we are and how we are living. Some events swoop down upon us which we most assuredly do not choose and over which we have no sway. Kelly Jolkowski and her family could not possibly have affected the outcome of her son’s disappearance that day, but somehow she has taken her pain and worked to effect change in legislation and in the outcome of missing persons cases.

My choice, to request permission from Kelly to link to her blog on Talking To Grief was an easy one. We think of death and illness as great fears in this society, perhaps because we talk so little of them. We fear them visiting our loved ones and ourselves. Yet the sorrow of the missing we do not keep so present in our minds save the big news stories that fill cable, evening news magazines in nightly fashion. We do not think much of the missing in their staggering numbers. Kelly quotes a statistic on her site which I will borrow: in the US, there are over 97, 000 active missing persons cases. OVER 97, 000.

Please take time to visit Voice 4 The Missing, Project Jason and CUE. Please take time to really LOOK at the faces of the missing when you get those fliers in your mailbox. Exposure is the key to answers. Kelly’s site provides ways that every average citizen can help. If it feels right to you, please do so.

With Thanks,

Meridith Gresher

Please check out Kelly Jolkowski's web journal Voice 4 The Missing

Please visit Kelly Jolkowski's non-profit organization Project Jason

Please visit Monica Caison's non-profit CUE Center For Missing Persons

Friday, November 25, 2005

To The Table: About Thanksgiving

I think holidays are almost always about the past. Maybe that’s because we are almost always about the past, a compendium of it: expectations, moments of connection, old wounds, fears, loves, hopes, and remembrances. All of these within us meet all of these within everyone we join with at the holidays. Is it any wonder there is so much navigating and negotiating to do?

This year we had two less places at the table. I could say three because my aunt and her nuclear family went to their in-laws, but this is not the same. They will be among us again, another year, another time. Permanently, we have two less places, my grandparents. Last night, Thanksgiving, we continue another year of ‘the firsts.’ We did them for my grandma. Now, we are doing them again. We are racing to the close, nearing the last days.

I could see us all negotiating, remembering, forgetting, struggling and finding the way through the day. All of us bumped up against the changes, listened to our internal dialogues while the external ones flew about us. I could see it when my aunt asked for too many chairs to be brought into the dining room, the way we could barely get the names out during the prayer, the way my uncle sat to my left at the head of the table, the place where my grandfather had been two year before as we sat through thanksgiving without my grandma. I was not in a good place that day and I remember him helping me through it with a look and a light touch of his hand on mine.

This year I found my grandma’s eyes looking back at me from my cousin. I was watching him while we were all busy with dessert. My friend and fellow writer, Liesl Jobson, wrote a poem called “Genetic Gift;” I suppose this is exactly what we have, gifts, signs of those who have come before us, genetic and otherwise. We carry them in the strands of our DNA. We carry them in our pasts and bring them with us to the table.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Blog "As I Knew Her"

I wanted to take a moment to say that I am taking down the link to the site "As I Knew Her." The name has been taken over by someone else, but the writer of this loving and beautiful grief tribute from one sister to another is no longer the owner. I've known this for awhile, but the removal of the link has been harder than expected. It, too, is a kind of passing. This time a fitting one.

Some of you who read my words, I believe, came to the site through "As I Knew Her." I can tell you that I have come to know this writer, miss her words, and wish to thank her publicly for the difference she has made by sharing her sorrow and her insights with all of us lucky enough to have read her words. And through her words, we've been lucky enough to know her sister.

If not for her, I don't think I would have had the courage to keep writing this blog once begun or to return to the writing as I recently have. There was comfort knowing she was one link away. For a time, the sisterhood of grief.

I could not remove the link without acknowledging "As I Knew Her" and the gift, meant from one sister to another, that impacted me so personally as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

When Death Comes - Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut:
when death comes
like the measles - pox;

when death comes
like an iceburg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
as I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver

To read much more of Mary Oliver you can click here Mary Oliver's Poems

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