To write about grief is not to compose
for there is no way to structure the messy meanness of ‘friends’
who avoid me, say you would be dead if it wasn’t for me,
and I am sick of you being so negative, thinking only of yourself,
people who stitch me up in meetings, tear down my reputation,
set up hateful websites, who recast me
as a villain, a bad mother, someone who deserves to be
punished to the very letter because I dare to grieve.
Each poem is a stone thrown into the pull of the past,
rippling up sorrow rewriting the anguish,
as black and white as the judgments of others
who see me only as a type
whispering in corners about my fragility,
thinking they know best about me, who see me as
nothing but a weak woman making a fuss
Expect The Unexpected
would know now to give: space to grieve, a friendly ear
a shoulder to cry on, an offer to walk the dog,
feed the cat, make the bed, to pick up the bra
that you have not worn for days, even weeks, from the floor
without fuss or fanfare.
Expect gossip about
parents and whether you were a good one,
loud conversations in the staffroom about death,
those final moments, judgement about your state of mind
callous comments — I’m so tired, I could kill myself,
He was stupid to kill himself
How come you did not see that coming and
Well, if you give a man enough rope…
Learn your new labels but kick them aside:
mad, messy, confused for you are much better
than those who sneer and call you crazy and
send inane videos of cartoon giraffes
that message outdated theories of grief to ‘cheer you up,’
to make you worse, and who tell you your experience is not
valid, that you should smile more, that it’s time to move on
although it’s never time for that especially if you must
fight hurtful cliques, online gossip, a malicious website
that leaves you reeling: a picture of a noose tightly knotted,
and you know who has viewed it and tell the police.
Do not expect meals delivered, parents to ring to offer
support, a friend to vacuum your house, a cousin to
tell you that you are doing your best even if it is only
brushing your hair, wearing your knickers when you go
to the shop. Know that there will be many who toss you aside:
a friend of fifteen years who shuts you off, a colleague
who, foot poised on a bottom step, turns, high tails it
back up the stairs, too scared of grief to wish it good morning.
Do not expect consideration, kindness, a hot meal delivered,
because people will tell you it’s your fault it all happened,
that you are bringing down morale, thoughtless, unable to string together a sentence, stupid and fat
and that you need to do better with biscuits in tins, snacks
in cupboards, washing folded and never left piled.
Expect to be grief-jacked on the streets, in the workplace by
others telling their unasked-for stories of suicide, a dead baby
though it had moved the previous day,
and learn to remind them that this is your story, your grief,
and that you are not weak. Expect to cry in public toilets.
You will find a locked bathroom a good place to cry,
crouched, stifling cries, forehead against a cold wall.
Make it clear, if you can, that you
need help, even if it is only an invite for coffee,
a chance to perhaps say
your child’s name to someone again.
People tell me that I have put on weight,
that there is no excuse for being a fat bitch,
inappropriate, manky, SUCH an embarrassment!
They weigh me down with demands to smile,
take my measure as a mother, a wife, a lover, a woman,
tell me to think of others though the scales have tipped
Each day, I fill my emptiness with regret, memories,
questions that can’t be answered,
consumed by anger at the insults
people expect me to swallow.
blunt fingernails spitting free from hard husks
shiny green beans, some sprouting so
hopeful for a chance again at life,
watched my phone click to 8.46am, and then there you were —
simultaneously thirty, confident, vital energy, perhaps the hint of a paunch
and a new-born, black tar meconium slick on the midwife’s arm,
as she weighed all 4095 grams of you, while outside summer rain
welcomed new life.
and he is guilt-ridden, wishes he thought of you more,
blinks away tears as he lives his life, does his best, wishes there was more to say
but there are no words for this, and I wait for people
to remember but few do and even fewer care
and I am still judged: clothes on the floor,
a pile of ironing, a dish unwashed, punished
for my grief when somebody shouts
I write poetry about grief and, importantly the terrible and, very often, abusive and misogynistic language directed at grieving women, to make people aware that this is not OK; to try to lessen the stigma around suicide and those bereaved by it, and also to offer some advice. In 2022, I was awarded a NZSA (NZ Society of Authors) Mentorship and worked with my mentor, Michaela Nyman, to write a poetic memoir of grief.