Grief support through time, friendship and poetry

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. 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 escapeIt 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 

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 

Grandchildren 

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 

 

MUSTARD 

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 

Instead 

I have to make do 

Without the grainy mustard 

And you 

It’s too much To ask 

And nothing tastes the same As memory  

 

YOU ARE NOT 

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  

 

DISENFRANCHISED 

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 revanelson.ca and selected bookstores.


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