Grief Diaries Poetry & Prose

Following is my introduction to Grief Diaries: Poetry & Prose and More reprinted with permission of Lynda Cheldelin Fell and AlyBlue Media. As we close one year and open the next, our poems and words can be a great source of comfort. Wishing you blessings this 2017.

Stories and poems began with the first humans. Before there was a written language, we painted on the walls of caves and told stories around fires under the night sky. Some of this artwork survives to this day. We still read the earliest Sumerian hymns to Inanna written circa 2300 B.C.E.  We sing ancient hymns in our temples. We pray the same words people have been praying for centuries, because words can transcend a lifetime.

The contributors of this book find hope in writing. After facing tragic losses they turned to the blank page to process trauma, remember loved ones and offer their words to comfort others. Writing memorializes our ancestors. Words help others going through similar challenges. Poems become a healing balm for our own souls as we remember the ones whom we can never forget. As time passes, our words change. We never “get over” our grief, yet we transform our grief into the art of poetry and prose. We create a story about the lives of our daughters and fathers, even as we tell stories about our moments together, about death, about who we now are. We speak stories of our own illnesses, and the illnesses of those around us, and these stories become a light we offer to others. These stories say We survive. You can too.

When I was married to a mentally ill man who had a psychotic breakdown, I studied poetry therapy and bibliotherapy with Dr. Sherry Reiter in New York City. I drove Downtown from Connecticut one Sunday each month and listened to this inspiring mentor teach us about archetypes, therapeutic devices, symbols, metaphors, poetry, stories, but mostly about life and how to cope with its constant changes. Her own husband had suffered a stroke at a young age. When she looked into my eyes and told me that I could survive my husband’s unemployment and illness, she spoke from her own experience.

Twelve people gathered in a circle at Dr. Reiter’s Creative “Righting” Center. Throughout the training I volunteered to bring this therapeutic work to people in nursing homes, underserved communities and HIV positive women in a public health clinic. When participants told me that they could not write poetry, I promised them a poem at the end of our time together. I especially loved watching senior citizens write their first poems. One woman in a nursing home was blind. She told me that she would like to write, but couldn’t see. I invited her to stay, and when I gave the class their writing prompt from the poem that we had read, I wrote her words down for her. She clutched her paper afterwards. “I can’t wait to show my daughter my poem,” she said.

The beauty of writing is that it offers us an opportunity to transmute our pain into something beautiful. There is a turn in every good poem that surprises the writer first. We are taken somewhere unexpected. Writing therapeutically gives us a cognitive, spiritual and emotional modality to turn our grief and pain and suffering into something else. We release some of our pain through catharsis. Our writing which is often accompanied by weeping, allows us to change and grow and heal. And as that sweet woman in the nursing home, we too can show our work to others, if we so choose.

When I was 21 weeks pregnant and found out that my unborn daughter would most likely die soon after birth, if she was born alive, I wrote. I wrote in my journal to process my deep emotional journey. I wrote to save my life. I wrote to be the best mother I could be for Mary Rose. After 9/11 Americans shared poetry and stories. We wrote. We dug out a poem by Auden that resonated with that time period in American history. We write and we read poetry and stories, especially at tragic crossroads, because it is a part of the human condition. We are born with poems in our souls. If we allow ourselves the space to release these words, they often become prayers.

In poetry therapy, as in homeopathy, like cures like. For a grieving client we offer a poem on grief. After reading and discussing the poem, the facilitator will take a line or image from the poem and have the client write her own poem from there. Whether we write a journal entry, a story or poem, words heal. This book offers the stories and poems of its writers to you, Reader, as medicine. I would like to invite each of you to join us in this healing journey. Choose a line from a poem or an essay or blog post and write your own work. Honor your ancestors. Honor your own journey through illness and grief. You can do it. We did. You can too.

To purchase Grief Diaries: Poetry, Prose & More CLICK HERE

The Holy Homeopath

file_ignatia-amaraI find myself surrounded by amazing women healers and they hold me up against the frailties of this world. When I was pregnant with Mary Rose, my daughter who died an hour after birth, my tribe included the incredible therapist, doulas, midwives, massage therapist and homeopath. Yes, I use homeopathic remedies even though some believe homeopathy to be a placebo, a nothing, a sham. I see homeopathy as holy healing and I call Aniela, my dear classical homeopath, the Holy Homeopath. The spiritual are one with the physical in this treatment and she sees me for who I am: a broken seeker who walks her path one step at a time, one breath, then another.

I’m not sure why homeopathy is a topic of controversy, but I recognize when people roll their eyes at me when I mention how much homeopathic remedies have helped me. They work for millions of people in India, the Royal Family of England, and people all over Europe and the United States. In Copeland’s Cure, writer Natalie Robins, offers documented research on how homeopathy was once taught at most medical schools in the United States until the American Medical Association (AMA) went to war and successfully took homeopaths out of their association. Why? Money. Homeopathic remedies are cheap and they work. Therefore, patients require fewer allopathic medicines. Where it was once considered unethical to advertise for any pharmaceutical, now the pharmaceutical industry is a powerful force in American healthcare. To understand the extent that homeopathy was used by medical doctors in the 1800s and early 1900s, according to Robins, “More than 1,900 homeopathic doctors were commissioned in the army and navy during the [first world] war” (143).

I started homeopathic treatment in my late 20s. I have a primary care doctor and go when I need to, but I usually start with natural remedies as they are easier on the body and have fewer side effects. With my pregnancy with Mary Rose, she was “diagnosed” by high-risk OB/GYNs and I continued to work through the medical system seeing a neonatologist, infant cardiologist and other doctors. Under Aniela’s care I could tell you the remedies that heal burns, fevers, poison ivy and an autoimmune disorder, but I want to talk about grief. There were at least two times during my pregnancy with Mary Rose, when I cried until my body convulsed for so long that I thought I would never stop. The first time that this happened I texted Aniela. I can’t stop crying, I wrote. Ignacia, was her reply. And within minutes my crying slowed and I was able to make dinner for my son. Even though my daughter had a fatal “diagnosis” I ate well, took vitamins and supplements and refused to take any medicine, even for excruciating nine-day headaches. I love both of my children equally and boundlessly and did not want to treat my daughter with less respect and concern, even though she was expected to die. Under the care of my homeopath, I used ignatia from the shock of the “diagnosis” to the end of the pregnancy and the intense grieving period that followed Mary Rose’s birth and death.

There is a heaviness in my heart center, I typed a few weeks later, I can’t bear the heaviness of this grief. Aniela replied, Take two doses of ignatia in one hour. The ignatia sometimes held for five weeks or a couple of months, but once I uncontrollably cried or couldn’t bear the heaviness of trisomy 18 and my grief, I would take a dose and feel lighter. Aniela gets me. She answers my emails and texts at strange hours. She generously and graciously offers homeopathic advice when other homeopaths would charge fees for every correspondence. I met Aniela through an occupational therapist who is of the Baha’i Faith. “She is the best,” Leigh said, “go see her.” And for once someone used that phrase correctly. I drove to New York City with my fussy baby alone to meet this woman, who is also of the Baha’i Faith. She has been treating us both ever since.

On August 8th, Aniela left me a voice mail message after I texted her that Mary Rose was born and died. “We’re all praying for you. We love you. We love you. We love you and we’re praying for you and dear Mary Rose.” She rocked me in her lull of we-love-yous. A few days later there was a package with a Baha’i prayer that is framed and hanging next to a picture of Mary Rose in my dining room.

The Great Being saith:
The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth:
He that hath Me not is bereft of all things.
Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me.
I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge.
I cheer the faint and revive the dead.
I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way.
I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty.
I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.

Tablets of Baha’u’llah

I received it on Saturday, a week after Mary Rose’s funeral, when I got home from a pow wow I attended with Sindy and Leslie. I had just seen a falcon at one of the booths.

I think of homeopathy as prayer, a subtle energy of God, present in His/Her creations (because God is bigger than either genders), lifting us gently out of imbalance and restoring our life force and energy. It is a long journey, and though we are moving on from ignatia to balance me from my difficult pregnancy, I will always be grateful for the remedy, so subtle it could make a weeping mother wipe away her tears and reach for a knife to cut tomatoes for her son’s dinner.

I call Aniela holy. To be holy is to be fully human and to embrace life which also includes death. It is to breathe in communion with every other sentient being and an inner knowing that we are connected in many ways. Only by walking in unity with each other and our Creator and our Earth can we build the communities that will embrace and support life in all its forms, with healthy DNA or trisomies, with love, always with love.