The Long Stillness – Writing Through Grief

In 2012 I lost two Grandparents just a few months apart from each other. I was present for the passing of one of my Grandfathers, and sadly, it was not a peaceful death. Along with eleven other members of the family, I sat in a tiny hospital room for the best part of fifteen hours, before my Grandfather’s soul departed. It was an immensely harrowing time, and we were all shaken to our cores by the experience. The impact their deaths had on me was enormous, and I found that the only way I could manage my grief was to turn to writing. Writing has helped me through some of the most challenging years of my life, including recovering from anorexia and dealing with manic depression, hypochondria and psychosis. I knew that if there was one thing I could rely on it to pull me through this horrible situation, it was my pen and paper.

From my grief I created a collection of poems which I entitled The Long Stillness after one of the featured poems. The Long Stillness refers to the hours spent in the hospital with my Grandfather (my Dad’s Dad). He was mostly unmoving and we, his family, were crying quietly and hoping for any sign that he was going to wake and sit up. My mother lost her Dad in 2012 too. We raced up to Scotland from Teesside in the North East of England when we heard the news that he was dying. I held his hands for the first time since I was a little girl. The poem below is from the perspective of the partner he left behind. I tried to imagine how she would be feeling after his passing. If this poem moves something in you, you can read the whole collection for free here.

Unprepared

We’d just had the new bathroom fitted,
new sofas put in the living room.
You’d just got those shoes for walking to town in.

We’d made plans for your birthday.
I‘d already written your card.
I spent an hour and a half in Hallmark
looking for the right one.

And your presents, don’t get me started.
After fifty years of marriage I could still,
every year, get you something unique,
something special, something you hadn’t seen
before, but found that you needed.

You’ve left me cold and alone,
and every time I close my eyes,
I find a new shade of black.

I miss your shouts from the top of the stairs,
asking if we have more soap under the sink.

I freeze when six o’clock arrives,
and dinner time comes round.
I let the hunger peak then fade.

I fold laundry to tire myself out.
I washed your clothes, at four this morning,
the ones you put in the washing basket,
on the landing, before we had to go to the hospital.

You’d always been so strong,
always managing to pull through,
get better. I don’t understand.

I know these things happen every day,
that I can’t escape loss and death and illness.
But I was unprepared for it,
like I was unprepared for old age,
and one day, just noticed it was there
in my hands and face.

Your clothes, those socks from that trip to America,
with the holes, that you refused to throw away.
The kilt you wore to your first born
daughter’s wedding.

The jumper you’d take out in October
and wouldn’t put away until May.
I throw them all from the kitchen door,
straight into the wheelie bin.

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