WHEN GRIEF SITS WITH YOUEdward from the USA sent in this beautiful but heartbreaking letter and I wanted to share it with you all. It is so painfully true of the fractured state inhabited by those fresh to grief – the sense of shattering. I send you all my love and thoughts, Edward. Be strong. We are all with you. And thank you for Ellen Bass’s wonderful and clear-eyed poem. Love Susie. x

Dear Susie,

Thank you for the passage from ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ in your recent post. My wife died suddenly, unexpectedly and in my arms on Christmas evening. I mourn her loss, our life and our future, which are now gone. The passage resonated in my heart and in something greater, maybe my ‘soul’. I can only read poetry, which seems like either a spell or a mantra, after her death. The narrative prose is incomprehensible to a shattered mind. So I send this to you.

Edward, USA

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you down like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

By Ellen Bass

Painting by Charles Sims