For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die … a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4

I would like to offer a suggestion: If you are not currently in a season of grief, tuck this poem away for a time when you are. That season comes to us all, and this is a poem that offers comforting words that can encourage us when it does. I find myself in such a season right now, and this poem comes to me as a true gift.

This poem is a blessing to me for several reasons. First, because it is honest. The ground beneath me does feel a little fragile right now. And I do find my grief ambushing me without warning (as it did when I was leading worship last Sunday). Second, because this poem reminds me that I can trust my sorrow – it knows, more than I do, when to pull the rope of grief. And finally, because this poem reminds me that there is healing that will eventually come. I might quibble with his line suggesting that there is a day “when the work of grief is done.” I don’t think that is quite true. But the work of grief does change, and perhaps even lessen, as the years pass. I have learned that from personal experience.

If this poem does find you in a season of grief, may these words offer you a little solace this day. And if you have a poem dear to you that honors your grief and offers you encouragement, I would love to have you share it with me, as I am sharing this one with you.

For Grief | John O’Donohue

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And, when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

This poem is from John O’Donohue’s book of blessings called “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.”

2 thoughts on “For Grief | John O’Donohue

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