Poetry in Grief Thursday – The Broken People

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Every Thursday I am sharing a poem I have written for Xavier.

Today I wanted to share a poem that was published in the beautiful book Three Minus One.

I was thrilled and humbled to be a part of this collection of stories, essays and poems about the loss of a child.  You can buy the book here.

This poem is about the change that occurs when you lose a child.  The person you become. The fragility and the strength that co-exist.


The Broken People

I am one of the broken people

The people who are hollow

The people made of glass

The people made of sorrow

 

You might not know it

Think me the same as you

But look a little closer

You’ll see straight through

 

I am weightless, groundless

I am battered, I am broken

I am bruised, I am tired

I am words left unspoken

 

 I am acting when I’m smiling

I am pretending even now

Appearing to be living

When I have forgotten how

 

I go through the motions

I wake up every day

Do the things that need doing

Say what I am supposed to say

 

But this vessel is broken, empty

It is cracked beyond repair

And sometimes when you see me

I have vanished into air

 

I am living on the outer

Each breath hangs by a thread

I am half way between the living

I am half way to the dead

 

One day I’ll find my feet

Feel the earth and remain

But even when I make it there

I’ll never be the same

 

Because now I am so fragile

Heart shattered on the floor

And ‘though I am made of glass now

I am somehow stronger than before

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Poetry in Grief – his Grave

Photo Credit Robyna MayI used to visit Xavier’s grave weekly.  I don’t go so often anymore, but it’s still a part of my life.  It always seems so strange to stand there, knowing that a part of my son resides in this saddest of gardens.  I wrote this a week or so after Xavier had been buried.

Your Grave

There is a place I go to,
Even though it makes me cry.
There is a place I go to,
Though it makes me wonder why.

Why so many little lives,
Were tragically cut short.
There is a little garden,
Which holds more children than it ought.

My little son is amongst them,
Amongst the graves and flowers,
Amongst butterflies and windmills,
Amongst sad and silent hours.

He has a little grave,
Where the mound is still high.
He’s next to another boy,
Who shouldn’t have had to die.

I wonder if he watches  me,
Crying over his tiny grave.
I wonder if he whispers,
“oh mummy, please be brave”

I wonder if he plays with,
The other children who are here.
Is he now best friends,
With the baby who is near?

I will never meet his little mates,
Never know who’s his favourite one.
But I like to think of them,
together, playing in the sun.

I hope that he is happy,
That he’s surround by love and light.
I hope he know his mummy,
Keeps his memory bright.

So I’ll keep on coming,
And every time I’ll shed a tear.
You are so very far away,
But it’s the place you feel most near.

Poetry in Grief – How to be a Mother?

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After losing Xavier, I knew that I would need to figure out how to mother him still.   But it seemed an impossible task.   I had lost confidence in myself as a mother and the things I prided myself on.  I wrote this poem, trying to articulate and search for my new kind of motherhood.

 Mummy

I know how to be a mother
to a child of flesh and bone.
But how to be a mother
when his world is not my own?

I know how to change a nappy,
I know how to give a feed,
but how can I be your mother
when I don’t know your every need?

I know how to give comfort,
I know how to dry tears,
but how can I make it better
when I never learned your fears?

I know how to play peek-a-boo
and I can do it for quite a while.
But how can I make you laugh
when I never saw your smile?

I know how to plan a birthday
what presents please a son
But how can I give you a party
When your birth day was your only one?

How can I be your mummy?
What’s the best thing I can do?
For I am still your mummy
And I love and cherish you

I will light a candle to remember
I will leave butterflies at your grave
I will talk about you often
Honour you and be brave

One day we might meet again,
I’d tickle your little tummy,
you’d laugh and squeal with delight
and I’d hear you call me “Mummy.”

Poetry in Grief – the First Poem

photo (20)This is the first poem I wrote  after Xavier died.  I was trying to make sense of the senseless and completely convinced that I was being punished.

Where are you?

I used to hear stories of heart break,
And wonder how they felt,
And then I’d feel so grateful for the hand that I’d been dealt.

But then someone changed the rules,
Someone changed the game,
And now our perfect life will never be the same.

I don’t pretend to know the mysteries of this earth,
But I knew how precious life is, I knew a baby’s worth.

I never was complacent – I was well aware,
Of the blessings and the privileges of children in our care.

I thought tragedy was for others, I thought we were immune,
Maybe that’s why he was taken all too soon.

I didn’t have to lose to recognise we were blessed,
We gave him all our love, we did our very best.

He was loved, he was precious, he made us a family,
I don’t understand why he was taken away from me.

Was it the hand of god? Or the finger of fate?
Or was it just all random – just a horrible mistake?

Or was it darker forces? The wages for some sin?
Or at the game of life you can’t always win?

Is there any order? Is there any sense?
Or just a lot of platitudes people like to dispense?

Things are said when you are grieving to make you feel ok,
But is any of it true or just words people say?

At the funeral I was strong, said words that then seemed true,
But now all I have is time and a future without you.

I know I’ll search for answers that I will never find,
And I know guilt will forever haunt the corners of my mind.

Even if they could tell me exactly what went wrong,
Would it make any difference – bring you back where you belong?

Where are you now my precious little boy?
Are you filled with light and with love and with joy?

Are you looking down on me and looking after us?
Or have you just returned to the dust?

Heaven, hell, dirt – in the end I just don’t care,
All I know is my arms are empty and my baby should be there.

Poetry in Grief – New Reality

 

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I wrote this poem when feeling very lost about a reality that did not feel real.   When I felt like I had fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole and every single thing was up-side down.

New Reality

I should have a messy house,
My time consumed in his care.
I have a messy house,
Little things too hard to bear.

I should have sleepless nights,
Tending to his every whim.
I have sleepless nights,
My thoughts are all of him.

I should be meeting new mums,
Cooing over their new kids.
I have met new mums,
Who have also lost to SIDS.

I should be on a break from work,
Spending time with my newborn.
I am on a break from work,
Can’t go back whilst still so torn.

I should be juggling two boys,
Wishing I had more hands.
I am juggling two boys,
I’m not sure my eldest understands.

I should be talking about him,
About how he fed and slept.
I am talking about him,
So that his memory is kept.

I should be crying over photos,
Sighing he grows too fast.
I am crying over photos,
The only memories to last.

I should have a living baby,
I should be happy and fulfilled.
I don’t have a living baby,
Just a life left to rebuild.

Poetry Thursday – Poetry in Grief

Every Thursday I will be sharing one of the poems I wrote whilst in the first year of grief.  It is my hope that in sharing these poems, those that have lost a child will feel less alone.  Those that have not, might understand a little of the pain.

These poems do not reflect where I am right now, but they are testaments along a journey.

 

They Wait

They wait patiently for her to return,

The laugh, the sparkle

They know it won’t be long now,

She will come back

They tolerate this stranger,

Who wears her clothes,

Who bears her shell,

But who has different eyes

They catch glimpses,

Sometimes she is almost in reach,

But she recedes quickly,

and they are left alone again.

They know time heals

They have heard it so many times

And so they wait

Patiently, for her return

She knows.

She knows they wait in vain

She tries.

She tries to be who they want

But she is gone.

She is with her baby now.

And someone new stands in her wake

Someone else, Someone new

Can you accept this newness?

Or will you continue to wait

For someone that no longer exists?

I created this image as part of "Capture Your Grief 2012".

I created this image as part of “Capture Your Grief 2012”. The topic was “After Loss Self Portrait”

Poetry in Grief

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After Xavier died, I wrote poems on a near daily basis. I had to express myself creatively to make any sense of life. I felt pent up with emotion and in need of release. I wanted to lash out and scream and make people understand my pain. Poetry allowed an outlet for that frustration. A figurative punching bag with the English language delivering hooks and jabs. Up until that point, my experience with poetry had been the clumsy, angsty words of a teenage girl. All darkness, conjured up emotion and the firm belief that no one could understand the complexity of being me. I am sure the words I scrawled, words that seemed so unique and intensely important at the time, have been echoed in girls’ diaries since the beginning of time. They were laboured words, teased out and poured over. Xavier’s poems have almost felt like gifts. As though the poems already existed and I just stumbled upon them. An unseen muse whispering the verses in my ear. I have held those poems close, feeling them too private to share with a broader audience. When I wrote them, the emotions were so raw and they bled onto the page. I read them now and I am startled by their clarity. When my mind raced with so many mixed-up feelings, when everything felt fuzzy around the edges, these poems have delivered my feelings back to me sharp and in razor focus. When I read them now I understand my initial reluctance in sharing them. I can recognise the protective instinct.

Today, I met with a beautiful group of mothers. We share our children gone too soon in common. I decided to share with them a poem I wrote on strength. It made me realise that these poems have power and the potential to give voice to unspoken emotion. They can give form and validation to the mess of grief feelings. And I think, despite the fact that doing so makes me vulnerable, sharing them feels right.

So I am sharing the poem I shared with those beautiful mothers today. I will be sharing the poems I have written over the next few months and collating them into a page on this site.

Strong

“You’re so strong” they say, “I couldn’t get of bed” they say
They tell you “I don’t know how you are living day to day”

They think that I am coping – this smile that masks my grief.
They think that I am coping – and it’s met with great relief.

But you can’t see inside me and you can’t read my mind.
And you can’t fill a hole that a baby leaves behind.

I have moments when everything feels like it will be okay,
But I need you to know that I don’t always feel that way.

It’s only been four weeks and years stretch long ahead,
And sometimes when I’m smiling, inside I’m feeling dead.

You ask me if I am “better”, as though recovering from some disease,
But I have lost a son and gained a pain that will not ease.

How would you feel if your child had been taken away?
In a matter of short weeks, would you really feel okay?

His life was cut short, but my love still lingers on.
And for the rest of my life he remains my son.

The time you have with your children you never will regret,
And though our time was short, I never will forget.

He is no less real, no less a person than your living child.
And the tiny time we had him does not render the loss mild.

I might say I see him in the sunshine, hear him when a bird sings,
But I wish I didn’t have to grab on to these remote and abstract things.

To you it seems like beauty, like I’m finding ways to live,
But I’m only holding on to the little life can give.

Half the time I don’t know what I actually feel.
Most of the time the fact he’s gone seems horribly surreal.

And I scream, I cry, I rage but I do it all in silence.
And my exterior seems serene while
my interior’s in violence.

But these thoughts are too dark, too strange for me to say aloud.
And so I stay silent, and you say “You’re strong – I’m proud”

I know you’re trying to help, that you don’t know what to say.
But please don’t believe me when I reply that “I’m okay”.