Grief and Poetry

Grief and Poetry

Losing someone close to us has serious psychological effects, and the grieving process can often feel overwhelming. Poetry offers a way to make sense of these complex emotions and experiences in a concise and structured format.

The specific language and imagery used in poems can capture the layers of grief in a way that prose cannot.

Humans are social beings, and grief is not something we go through alone. Poetry allows us to feel a sense of community and solidarity in our mourning. Additionally, poetry allows us to connect with others, particularly through shared emotions and experiences.

Writing poetry

Some people find solace in writing their own poetry as part of the grieving process. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can be a cathartic release for pent-up emotions. It can help bring clarity to confusing thoughts and feelings. It might not feel like traditional “good” poetry, but that doesn’t matter; what matters is that it helps the writer cope and heal.

It’s the same as when a therapist might ask a depressed client to keep a journal—writing can provide an outlet for emotions and help with processing them.

Listening to poetry

Alternatively, some people find it helpful to listen to the poetry of others. Hearing someone else’s words can be just as reassuring as writing our own. From spoken word performances to recitations by actors, there are many options for consuming poetry in an auditory format. Even songs, with their poetic lyrics, can be soothing in times of mourning.

Reading poetry

Reading poetry can also be a source of comfort. Many poets have tackled the end of life subject, and their words can remind us that we are not alone in our grief. It’s often helpful to read poems about specific themes or circumstances, such as the loss of a child or spouse, written by someone who has been through a similar experience.

Some poets who have written about grief and loss include:

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost

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."

“If Roses Grow in Heaven” by Dolores M. Garcia

If roses grow in heaven,

Lord please pick a bunch for me,

Place them in my Mother’s arms

and tell her they’re from me.

Tell her I love her and miss her,

and when she turns to smile,

place a kiss upon her cheek

and hold her for awhile.

Because remembering her is easy,

I do it every day,

but there’s an ache within my heart

that will never go away."

“Mama Never Forgets Her Birds” by Emily Dickinson

Mama never forgets her birds,

Though in another tree –

She looks down just as often

And just as tenderly

As when her little mortal nest

With cunning care she wove –

If either of her sparrows fall,

She notices, above."

“Grief” by Stephen Dobyns

Trying to remember you

is like carrying water

in my hands a long distance

across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.

They have drunk nothing for days.

Your name was the food I lived on;

now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.

To say your name was to be surrounded

by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,

I touch glass and barbed wire.

Your name was the thread connecting my life;

now I am fragments on a tailor’s floor.

I was dancing when I

learned of your death; may

my feet be severed from my body."


No matter what form it takes, poetry can provide solace in the difficult grief journey. It offers a way to make sense of our emotions and connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. 

Whether it’s writing our own poetry, listening to spoken word performances, or reading poems written by others, incorporating poetry into the grieving process can be healing. Give it a try and see how it might benefit you in your time of grief.

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