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Exercise Wednesday: Loss and grief

June 26, 2013

Most of us, perhaps all of us, have experienced grief.  The death of a spouse or parent, the loss of a pet.  A good friend who moves far away.  A broken fence, a divorce, an injury, a house that burns, or a child seriously ill.  Witnessing a tragic event.  The list is very long.

I hope that you have written poems about it.  Though it takes up less of our lives over time, the intensity of our despair may never diminish, which actually makes it a good subject for a poem.  We possess the very human desire to re-experience our painful events.

Writing a poem gives the opportunity to explore your religious or non-religious views about loss, your philosophy, a newfound empathy for others who have experienced a similar loss.  Your grief and how you deal with it is unique at the same time as it is universal.    This, too, makes it a good poetic subject.

Writing about grief is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, to come to terms with our sense of anguish, to face what is difficult for us to think about, and to re-experience our grief.  Getting the words just right seems to lead toward understanding ourselves.  There is something about writing a poem of loss that restores wholeness.

So this month, write a poem about a loss you have had.  Go online and look up “The Well of Grief” by David Whyte.  His poem shows that you don’t have to tell all of your story.  A small detail can lead to a fine poem, can comfort you, and when published, can do the same for your readers.


Peggy Miller, an editor with The Comstock Review, has an MFA from American University. She has conducted poetry workshops for over 15 years. Her collections include What the Blood Knows was published in 2007 and Stone Being in 2009, both from Custom Words. Peggy has published a chapbook, Martha Contemplates the Universe, Frith Press, and a Greatest Hits chapbook from Pudding House. Visit her on Facebook.


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