A bleak midwinter silently advanced and settled in, both seasonally and in my soul. Gray, dreary January days reflected my dismal mood. Like a tomb, it was cold in the house and cold in my soul.

Even the garden seemed to whimper softly as I slipped back to say hello upon my return. Dark and dormant as it had ever been, I sensed a palpable dirge in the wintry woodland, descending like a cold soft rain. Retreating inside through the well-worn back door, I was struck at the sudden realization that I was the sole inhabitant of our family home. It was almost too much to bear.

Somber words by English poet Christina Rossetti (1872) filled my mind.

In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan.

Earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone.

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

Long ago.

My heart as hard as iron, my teardrops like a stone. Grief had fallen, grief on grief, in my personal bleak midwinter.

So cold, so hard, so bleak.

Excerpted from Escape from Grief Prison: A Story of Love, Loss and Healing, by Gail Norwood