“ Time to write something about poetry “, I thought. This was what came out :
It is 17 months since my Dad died. Yes, he was old, yes, he was ill. I can even say, yes, I knew somewhere deep within, in my gut, that it was coming. But when it happened, it brought a slurry of debris, a landslide that overwhelmed me with suffocating grief and even smothered my tears. Like everyone else, I comforted those who were left, attended to the death certificate, the financial aspects , spoke at the funeral and managed to go along with today’s requirement that we “ celebrate a life” . It was good to see those long lost relatives and the Ramblers and others who had loved my Dad . A common theme was, “ he was such a nice man, a real gentleman” and I am lucky to be able to concur with that wholeheartedly.
After the funeral, normality resumed in the form of Work and family life. I had shared the loss with others of course, my Mum, my own children and my husband. Life would carry on and my Dad would be the first one to want that – “no need to be morbid” was a strong mantra when I was growing up.
So, back to work five days a week in social work dealing with other people’s loss. Back to normality. My body gradually made it known that it would not let my grief “ go gentle into that good night” . At first, I put it down to not sleeping properly, to getting older myself, to hitting a brick wall in a job I had done for 31 years. My brain was struggling to retain information, I found myself looking across a table , intently focussing on what someone was saying , but not being able to process any of it. Gradually I felt myself slipping away, sliding down with the slag heaps around me , unable to hold on to anything firm , nothing could break my fall. Next came the car accident – someone went into me and my car was a write off. He had one of those huge 4x4s which survived unscathed. Of course.
Yes, I know it is a cliche. “The Crash” resulted in my crash. It was the archetypal last straw and all the things my body had been trying to tell me now happened. I felt the loss of my Dad so much, it was beyond words so that is exactly what happened, I lost my words. For months my brain could not keep up with my tongue. My legs started to give way, out of the blue. I thought I must be going mad as all the things I had done before to get through trauma and loss did not work. I realise now that mainly what I had done was just keep on, act as normal, go to work, hunker down and let the storm pass, smile and say “ I’m OK, thanks, how are you? “All the time, I was deeply depressed.
This all stopped. I needed silence, I needed quiet, predictable places to be . I needed to stand on firm ground with people that could hold me and show me their kindness. I needed to be in nature and especially by the sea. My Dad was a sailor as a very young man, as part of National Service and he never lost his love of the sea. I wrote poems for him, and for me, as I sat in a silent cottage on the Isle Of Mull overlooking the ocean.
Poetry has helped me cope with the loss of my Dad and to work through the grief. We all lose so much in this life, whether family, children, friends , lovers, animals, homes, countries , that ways of acknowledging this, of working through the meaning of our own and others’ lives and of holding the grief without clinging to it are essential. Poetry does help.