Grief support through time, friendship and poetry

Personal Stories | May 7, 2021 | Reva Nelson

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A photo of Michael and Reva

Grief is a topic that is often overlooked or neglected, yet grief is an experience that impacts people in a myriad of ways. As part of our mission which aims to advocate, educate, and support, we have identified the need for public education surrounding the grief experience. Several storytellers have shared their lived experience with grief for our blog – this is Reva’s story.

I met Michael when I was 68 and he, 71. It was a delightful, ‘senior romance’ full of laughter, travel, and discovery. We had only 18 months together. During our time together, his cancer came back. I thought he would pull through and we would have a new future of at least five and maybe ten years. He was the love of my life, after years on my own.

Despite his cancer diagnosis, his death came as a shock. He died in the hospital, but he had been receiving radiation and we thought he would recover. Even the nurses were shocked. Immediately after he died. I was numb with shock. When it came to coping with my grief, I was quite isolated. I didn’t know anyone in the small town I had recently moved to, but I could walk to the lake each day. I’d sit on a log and cry. I have had loss in my life, in terms of the death of both parents, a friend and a sister-in-law. Michael’s death hit me the hardest because it was the loss of a future life together.

To make the experience more difficult, Michael’s ex-wife with whom he didn’t even speak ‘swooped’ in at the end and took over everything. I learned my grief was called ‘disenfranchised grief’ because he was separated, albeit formally, and for a year previously, but we were not married ourselves. That was difficult. We talked about marriage, but it wasn’t a formal announcement at the time. Anyone who said, “You’ll meet someone else” was not helpful. He was an exceptional person, and this was my ‘big’ love after years on my own.

Eventually I went to a bereavement group which helped a lot. One of my friends from Toronto came and stayed with me every weekend through the summer after he died. I also went to visit friends and I had one weekend at a friend’s cottage which was also a helpful escape. It has been five years now, and I finally wrote a book of poetry that has an entire section of my days going through his cancer’s return, the time in the hospital and the grieving that continued afterward.

Here are four poems from my collection.


And so, it is

That life surges ahead

Memories ebb and flow Pain lessens with miracles Of new life and adventures

Friends stand by

Four years, ten years, thirty years And more

Joy finds me

Like the lake waves

Coming and going, in and out And back again

All of us aging, aching, swapping stories

My men are the physio, the podiatrist, the doctor Yet I’m happy, content, finding new awe

The gifts of my son and daughter-in-law


I barely did know

The innocent love they could bestow Swelling my heart beyond measure

Joy finds me

Pain lessened by miracles

Of seedlings and explorations

And so, it is

That life surges ahead


Why can’t my thoughts of you Disappear as easily

As the jar of grainy mustard From the fridge

Lost forever

Amidst the jams

Mayonnaise and hoisin sauce By unseeing eyes

It would have been perfect With the leftover turkey On the seeded roll I bought Especially for today


I have to make do

Without the grainy mustard

And you

It’s too much To ask

And nothing tastes the same As memory


I am here

And you are not

I am talking to people

And you are not

I am making new friends

And you are not

I am on two boards

And you are not

I am a gallery volunteer

And you are not

I am brushing my teeth now

And you are not

I am washing my face now

And you are not

I am going to bed now

And you are not

I am alive here

And you are not


Time is helping

I cry some, sob less

Read articles on grief

Pretend I’m not a mess

I invite friends here

For wine and cheese

Sob at their house

Take my leave

I join a bereavement group

At the funeral home

They grieve for spouses

Many years shared, they moan

I shouldn’t be here, I say

I’m not in your loop

You had decades together

Sharing houses and soup

He was my significant other

Of only months, not years

My senior boyfriend

Although no difference in tears

The lady beside me reaches

To touch my hand

Love is love, she says

Time doesn’t matter, it shifts like sand

She takes the moment

While wrapped in her grief

To caress my heart

Share comfort and relief

Reva Nelson’s poetry from Twister Branches – available at and selected bookstores.

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