The movement of grief—especially in a fragmented, disconnected culture—is a core aspect of the work of formation and healing. Here, third-year MA in Counseling Psychology student Genevra Levinson shares a reflection and poem about her evolving relationship with grief, from villain to antihero.
Some of my favorite stories entail an unexpected meeting of friends. Or perhaps more precisely, a meeting of unexpected friends. A character who was previously overlooked and often undesirable becomes an essential companion on the journey. A few favorite antiheroes that come to mind include Puddleglum (The Silver Chair), John Bender (The Breakfast Club), and Severus Snape (Harry Potter). I am coming to understand Grief as one such unanticipated ally.
My current imagination around Grief envisions her as a manifestation of the woman Wisdom personified in the book of Proverbs. One might say Grief is Wisdom’s shadow side. Like Crow in Max Porter’s novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers, she is at once crass yet tender. She is dark yet bright. You’re a little afraid of her, and simultaneously drawn to her. She is strange. She is antihero.
I have begun a relationship with Grief that I expect will become one of the most intimate of my life. She has me weeping at the glint of sun on skyscrapers and water during my daily commute, and every time I turn on the news. She frightfully, intriguingly animates the faces of strangers. She has deepened my laugh. I no longer vilify crows. I am inexplicably tender. I believe that what I am becoming, what we are all becoming, are deep wells that can hold and tend to vast quantities of grief. I can only wonder what Grief will do to mold my face into her own gnarled, radiant image.
“I believe that what I am becoming, what we are all becoming, are deep wells that can hold and tend to vast quantities of grief.”
In the spirit of Grief as antihero, I recently composed the following poem:
Grief, Goddess of the Stricken
Unflinching unveiler of truth,
breaking self-conscious silences at funerals
with orphan and widow sobs, swallowing into bottomless
black wells the statements of well-intentioned bullshitters,
measuring the compact weight of sorrow
in pounds of frozen lasagna and dollars spent
on Thai takeout.
She throws open bedroom curtains at 10:00am and sits
in the back of the bus with prostitutes,
E-line southbound, blasting down Aurora,
bleary-eyed and sipping Snapple tea
with their McDonalds breakfast sandwiches.
She holds our bodies hostage in the glaring light,
post-war veterans never fully home,
and won’t let any of us fake it—
the beauty and the loss.
She holds us like stones until we find breath
She makes wide-eyed haunted blackness bright,
wraps herself around us as a harness
in our eternal falling. She suspends
the rules of spacetime so we see every crack and hole
in every story, lets us know we are not alone
in our catastrophic rearrangements, our crater-carrying
existence in the absence of limbs,
a better half.
Her rhinoceros rampage banishes despair,
and in the paradox of newly vacant space, contracts
and expands the tracts of land
that lie fallow with seeds in the ground, yet she allows
them the wait, the not yet, not now.
She makes no demand that they reach
towards the sun, because she knows
they cannot resist.
Holy Mother, raze us to raise us.
Oh Grief be the antidote, the prelude