I wasn’t prepared for 2009, the first new year after our son Ben’s death in 2008. How could we make new memories without our boy? This revelation hit hard around 11:59 pm on New Year’s Eve 2008 as the Times Square ball drop started and the countdown began. Time needed to stand still – everything needed to stop. Of course the ball did drop with “2009” flashing everywhere as people sang, and hugged, and kissed, to the background roar and beauty of exploding fireworks. I curled into the fetal position with my head buried in sofa cushions, closing my mind to the world.

The next few New Year Eves went a little better because I knew what to expect and what to avoid. My husband Dave and I ate an early dinner, watched rented movies, and went to bed about 10 pm.  But as the years have passed, and with more than a little help along the way, I have learned to accept that grief is now a part of who I am – like my pug nose or sense of humor – and I’ve learned to not only live with it, but lean into it and use it to feel alive again.

As 2016 rolls in not only am I planning to watch the Times Square celebration, but I’m also making a resolution to pursue a full and happy life with my tattered heart in tow.  For me, this quest means committing myself to writing poetry. I’ve taken a few online poetry classes and they have been so helpful in my journey to sort out my grief and to rediscover God through nature. Whenever I find myself in grief’s dark embrace I turn to writing poetry and within an hour or two I’m feeling better.

Poetry keeps Ben close to me. So many things are out of my control, but writing poetry allows me to express myself, to empower me to feel, and to share my grief as I see fit.

I encourage you, Dear Reader, to use the New Year to lean into your grief, engage in activities that bring you comfort, and make 2016 the year you find your joy again.

In honor of my lost boy and my quest to handle grief through poetry, here’s one of my most recent efforts, entitled “If I Were Blind.”

If I Were Blind

If I were blind

I could see him

hiding in thin places

just beyond the Norway pines.


If I were blind

I could spot him

dancing with the starlings

as they swirl against gray skies.


Wildwood taunts me.

Seeing his name engraved

in black granite

tricks me into believing

he is forever still.


If I were blind

I could ride the great wind

west and glimpse his bobbing head

as he rumbles with the bison

toward home.





Joni Norby

Joni M. Norby retired from California State University, Fullerton where she served as Associate Dean and Lecturer for Business Communications. She earned her MBA from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas and has studied creative nonfiction and poetry as part of Stanford University's Online Writing Series and at The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with writing, Joni owns and operates a vineyard in California's Central Valley along with her husband, Dave.

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