All Poetry

Fire & Ice: The Faces of Grief

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
without shame

our reflection more lustrous
than knowing
brilliantine fabric
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,
our undoing

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

nothing lasts
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
Barbara Leonhard

Barbara Harris Leonhard, a retired instructor of English as a Second Language at the University of Missouri, is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver. Her work appears in Free Verse Revolution: A literary magazine, Vita Brevis, Well Versed 2020, Spillwords, Silver Birch Press, Amethyst Review, PhoebeMD: Medicine and Poetry, and Dark Poets Club. Her poetry podcast is located at

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22 replies »

  1. I appreciate this post very much. I like the idea of volunteering, sounds like a wonderful way to heal grief of losing a loved one. I’m in pre-grieving stage, this information is very helpful to me.

  2. Phoebe and Barbara, two of my favorite people not only here in the Inter Webs, but out there in the universe. Would that the virtual world afford us the opportunity to share a real cup of coffee, I would think the caffeinated brew would fuel a lengthy conversation about life, poetry, and wellness between the three of us. Very glad you have connected here and I absolutely love this article.

    When I look back at the grief I felt as my life change from one well understood form into beginning to be something different and more consistent with my core values of peace and a spiritually-based love, I awakened to recovery through volunteering. Beginning with putting meals together for Rise Against Hunger and then volunteering for a program in Norfolk where churches and synagogues housed the homeless in winter, I began to feel the healing of grief.

    My life had turned upside down in a ten year period: an unexpected stillbirth, the death of my beloved grandmother, the final years of a brother-in-law who was more brother than in-law as he declined from FTD, my Dad’s open heart surgery, cancer and then ultimate death, the end of my own marriage after many turmultuous years, and the final years of my 27 in the Navy… grief was so normal I hardly remembered what joy was. Volunteering helped me see that there was good work left for me to do, work those who had passed would be proud of…

    So basically… my two dear friends… thank you for this.

  3. Reblogged this on Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver and commented:
    My podcast on Grief: Fire and Ice, which shares my journey with Mom through Alzheimer’s will be published in segments on Here is the first installment. Check out her site. It is a source of poetry and articles on healing. We all need to bolster our immune systems, especially now with the stress and fear we feel in our daily lives and with COVID-19 spreading. Sites like Phoebe’s offer stories and poems of hope and recovery.

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