Loss: the unsaid

 Loss speeds alone; angry car drive

unpleasant. Duck, dive, dodge;

sneaky sideways swerve

leaves the South London visitor

outmanoeuvred. In the funeral lodge,

wishing she’d ever had the nerve

to address the issues she’s never dared.

Long-gone relatives leave memories dislodged.

Maybe black and bruised was all she deserved.

An imagined apology from my abusive mother

My love in life was seeing the world.

To be precise, it was sunning my soul.


I came alive on my summer holiday:

my skin could cope with all those rays.


My problem was, I couldn’t see beyond

those speckles of sun. I was just too fond


of easy-bronzed skin to see that my girls

were curled to wizened, before-their-time whirls.


A strip of hurt they might just tolerate

but, in later years, they felt victims of Fate.


It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t really know

that love and abuse could be bedfellows.


I thank the wisdom of my first-girl is called

to cancel the bits that left her appalled.


She learnt from me how to be what I’m not:

she’s now reaching out to heal what I hurt.

A poem for my third day of grief

inktuition broken flower

I know all about the shock that comes

with that sense of leaden dread:

it’s all over now.

We’re talking definitive adieu:

no more chances for ciao.

I know all about the stages of grief,

but knowing won’t numb my pain.

Shock, anger and denial,

depression and then acceptance?

Yeah. But MY loss can’t be so contained.

A poem: the breath between life and death

OK. So it was expected

that any breath could be her last.

I’ve sat with her so many times

as I raked over gripes from my past.

But what I’m still sitting with now

is the contrast between life and death:

one minute her chest’s up and down;

the next she’s drawn her last breath.

There was calmness in that in-between moment,

with sounds of her last snores and sighs,

as I sat in my ambivalent seat

making heartfelt, what-if goodbyes.

Why some kinds of grief never die

My father died 14 years ago this evening: 10 minutes to 10pm on Thursday 11 March 1999. I don’t think there’s been a day gone by when I haven’t thought about him.

It’s worse in the early days, of course, when the thought flashes across my mind that I want to make that phone call to him to joke about something funny I’ve read in the paper or heard on the radio. And then I realise with searing pain to my heart that I can’t. Because he’s gone. Fourteen years down the line, the urge to speak to him is the same, and the pain of loss around his anniversary is almost as keen as when he first passed away.

I remember three months after he died, a so-called ‘friend’ said I should be over it by now. Be over what, exactly? The tears, the numbness, the inability to accept that such a mighty man had been snuffed from my life?

After the shock and all the fuss of the funeral and the sympathy cards, people’s interest wanes. Their life gets back to normal. But for a bereaved daughter there is no getting back to normal. There’s only the day-to-day getting through, and the renegotiating a life whose volume has been dialled down several notches. Whose colour is a few shades faded. Whose fabric of hope has been ripped to shreds.

So I don’t believe in ‘getting over’ grief. Yes, there are ‘stages’ of grief to be ‘worked through’ and the loss to come to terms with. Eventually. But I defy anyone who’s lost someone darling and dear to them to say that one day they’re completely ‘over it’.

Grief will always have a grip on my heart. But perhaps by remembering my sadness, by honouring my grief, I am keeping alive my father’s spirit within me.