By Barbara Leonhard, Featured Contributor
Robert Frost once wrote:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Online, one can find many poets who sing about their grief. In this lyrical piece, Frost tells us that we face changes all the time. Eden, our paradise, has been lost. Life is temporary, terminal, and short lived. The sun both rises and falls; the seasons change, and we grieve.
What is Grief?
Grief is an expression of love for the people and things we have lost.
The word ‘grief’ itself stems from the Latin words for “heavy” and “weighty”…like an anchor…pulling us down.
Grief is a scribe recording each day, creating a narrative of changes, losses and reckonings.
A loved one has died, the most familiar cause of grief. We can’t help but feel stinging, stabbing, unrelenting pain, overwhelming sadness. We also experience divorces, losses of jobs, and natural disasters, which destroy our homes and livelihood. Any political, social, and environmental change can elicit grief. All transitions and changes in life may call up grief. With every new home, we grieve the loss of the old one.
Grief is Fire and Ice.
It is the fire of love, the ice of shock and dismay. We need to realize that everyone grieves in different ways and on different timelines. There are no rules. We may not even outwardly grieve!
Grieving is a nonlinear process.
It is often said that grief comes in five stages. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And acceptance. But we often feel many if not all of these at the same time. When I grieve, I’m perplexed, shocked, pissed, brave, and at a loss…all at the same time. I also feel pain, guilt, loneliness, and abandonment—even as I move toward hope.
Grief has no timeline.
I still grieve childhood losses. We moved many times since the family was growing and Dad had to find bigger churches to support us. I lost track of friends and personal treasures, such as my artwork which was put out on the curb when I wasn’t there to save it. I even started grieving my parents’ deaths before they even died!
Grief and joy share a continuum.
On our electronic devices, we can adjust the brightness of the display. We can go 100% bright and blind ourselves as well as run down the battery faster, or we can go into dark mode. Grief is the dark mode. Maybe with grief we need the dark mode to restore our battery life. Grief heals if we allow that rumination to explore our loss and somehow regain the strength to find a middle setting…a balance. Sometimes we feel joy, so we choose to savor and nurture the bliss. We strive to be grateful for each moment regardless of the emotion. Similarly, we also learn to thank and appreciate grief—this shadow with substance.
Grief is complicated.
It is facets on a diamond with its own symmetry. A beautiful jewel with cutting edges. Grief is—in a way, therefore—a necessary friend.
Dealing with Grief
I keep pulling up on that anchor of grief. And only I alone can resolve my grief. I do that in many ways. Volunteering at a local hospice is one. Visiting with people on hospice care, being a sacred companion, being a support, being a witness to another person’s and another family’s loss are ways that help me grieve the loss of my own parents. Sometimes I feel another layer of grief dissolve when I hold witness to another’s grief, and my being there is appreciated by those who can speak.
I grieve through poetry. Many of my own poems are expressions of grief. And as Frost so eloquently expressed in the poem above, life is temporary, terminal, and short lived. But just as the state of Eden is temporary, so is grief.
So here, I provide my own response to Frost:
Before Eden Fell
Before Eden Fell
we were all immortal
our beauty, captured forever
in flora and fauna
so brilliant that light itself
had to blink twice
our true being stood naked
our reflection more lustrous
until the apple fell
into Mother’s soft hands
our Mother, the first to grieve
her garden lost
how she still clings to the maiden
the stunning beauty she once was
now deflowered, exposed to erosion
our Eden, our innocence and purity,
victim to change, to corruption, to decline,
we are young until we age
we are strong until we are weak
no one …. no thing is our eternity
our heaven forever
on this plane
so we grieve
feeling abandoned by joy
and cast out of a divine place
we cling to the fading innocence
of our Eden, somehow
we bless grief.
[Part 2 – Alzheimer’s: Grieving the Loss of My Mother]
Barbara Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver. Her podcast Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul explores universal themes such as Grief, Kindness, and Presence. She taught writing for many years at the University of Missouri and is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing. She is also a regular contributor to Free Verse Revolution and Go Dog Go Café.
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