Poem: A Conversation With Grief

Grief Makes a Promise

A poem by Bob Baugher, Ph.D. —

I feel like I’m going crazy.

[Grief speaks] Come sit down, let’s talk.

Not you! Leave me alone.

You have moved into my life and you won’t leave.

Everywhere I look there you are, staring me in the face, filling my life with pain.

[Grief responds] I know. But just hear me out, OK?

I’m tired of listening to you. Tired of feeling so many things:

Confused, sad, hopeless, angry, anxious, guilty, helpless,

Isolated, empty, alone, exhausted, lost, fearful.

[Grief, firmly] You’re supposed to have feelings.

You’re human.

Look, you don’t understand.

Someone I care for very much has died and it hurts-

It hurts so bad I can’t stand it.

Sometimes I don’t even want to be here.

[Grief, comforting] I hear you. But if you never loved, you’d never grieve.

What you feel is normal.

No, it’s not. Everyone says I’m—well—- they say that I’m grieving too much.

They’re worried about me.

They say that it’s time to move on.

They say to me:

“It’s time to put closure on this.”

“It’s time to heal, accept, recover, get over it.”

{Grief, softly] And you can’t.

Well, no. Not like they want me to. I can’t put closure on my love.

My love did not die.

I can’t wake up one day and suddenly exclaim, “I’m healed.”

I’ll never completely heal.

I certainly will not “accept” or “recover” from this death.?

And I will never “get over” it as if this is a problem that can be fixed.

[Grief whispers] You don’t have to.

What do you mean?

[Grief takes a seat] Everyone grieves differently.

And you grieve however you’re going to grieve.

You had a unique relationship with your loved one-a relationship that no one can ever understand.

So, what am I supposed to do?

[Grief, moving closer] Five things.

First, grieve: feel your grief.

That’s why I’m in your life.

So you can begin to feel again.

Even though you don’t like what you feel.

Second, talk it out with people who are willing to listen and not judge.

Find a way to get all those bottled up feelings out so they don’t go round and round with no place to go.

Find those people who will listen.

They’re out there.

Do it.

Third, realize that everyone grieves differently. Respect this.

Fourth, live.

Even though at times you don’t feel like putting one foot in front of the other.

Your job is to live your life, despite all the changes you’ve gone through, despite all the pain.

And fifth, talk about your loved one.

Say his name or her name.

Tell your loved one’s life story.

This person lived a life.

Find people who will listen to the stories and who will in turn tell you their stories of your loved one.

Your love for this person will never go away.

You will always carry it in your heart.

[Grief offering a handshake] And finally, I make you a promise.

[Shaking hands] You? Grief is making me a promise?

Yes, my promise to you is:

As terrible as you feel now, you will not feel this way forever.

There will be times that you will laugh.

Times where your confusion, your sadness, hopelessness, your anger, anxiety, guilt, helplessness,

Your isolation, emptiness, loneliness, exhaustion, and fear will not feel so intense.

Don’t get me wrong. You will never forget your loved one.

And feeling less grief does not mean that you are forgetting this person.

Now, I want you to say your loved one’s name.

Go ahead, say it.

It’s a precious name.

Take the memories.

Put them in your heart.

Feel them there.

And know that your loved one will always safely be in your heart.


I promise.

(Special thanks to Jane Baugher for her editorial input.)

Published by Koven, M. & Pearl, L. (2004). In their book: Mourning Has Broken: A Collection of Creative Writings about Grief & Healing

Bob Baugher

More Articles Written by Bob

Bob Baugher, Ph.D., is a Psychology Instructor at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington where he teaches courses in Psychology and Death Education. As a trainer for LivingWorks he has trained more than 1,000 people in suicide intervention. He has given more than 600 workshops on grief and loss across the U.S. including England, South Africa, and Namibia. As a professional advisor to the South King County Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, Bob has been invited to speak at many of the TCF national conferences during the past 20 years. He earned a certificate in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education and Counseling and in the 1990s he was a clinician with University of Washington School of Nursing Parent Bereavement Project. Bob has written several articles and seven books on the bereavement process. Reach him at [email protected] Dr. Baugher appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss Coping with Anger and Guilt After a Loss.


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  • Lynn Bayless says:

    Thanks for writing this Dr.Bob. Last month I lost an aunt. She was here one day and then next day my cousin called to say that she was gone. She was the second aunt to pass in 18 months. I was in a lot of pain. Yet today, as I held my best friends hand and watched him cry over the loss of his brother, the only father figure he ever had, I felt an even deeper pain for his loss than my own. I am completely at a loss for words to comfort him. I just keep reminding myself that it’s okay to be silent.