Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Poetry of the Integration of Grief and Loss

The following is a poem by someone, Iris Arenson-Fuller, I have had the great pleasure of meeting through my work at the International Coach Academy. I reproduce it here because I believe it succinctly and movingly reflects on the ways our history of grief is necessarily interwoven into and an essential part of how we intuit, visualize and actualize our future... whether we see the future as out of our control and fated, or decide to take as much control of it as we can to make our dreams and hopes a reality.

Over the years in my work with grief and loss with those who have sustained a series of losses, traumas, or are facing the kinds of losses and great life transformation represented by the advent of a life-threatening disease, I have come to understand that the ability to go forward healthily into a life that is informed by such events or series of events must necessarily include the management of how those occurrences are present in our store of sense and emotional memory for the rest of our lives. That is, they are filters and batteries in the circuits of our generator of traumas, joys, learning and genetic predispositions that inform how we go forward and approach our remaining years. They cannot be escaped. They must not be avoided because they cannot be avoided. They are, for lack of better words, encoded, and can become part of how we are gifted as a species that is able to transform trauma into progress and enlightenment, for the purpose of survival, or they can, through avoidance or misplacement, become the source of continuing un-managed anguish and self-destruction... neurosis and even psychosis and collective evil.

Because I believe literature has been the greatest repository of the most complete understanding of how these dynamics come to the fore and are played out in the drama of our lives, I look to it and always have looked to it for guidance and understanding of the human psyche and the wisdom, love , grief and tragedy of our species.

Poetry especially is able to bring great truths, clarity, resolution and acceptance to our struggles as individuals and as a collective of souls. This poem is especially adept at bringing such truth to the surface of conscious understanding and I thank Iris for it!


Bear Daydreams
-Iris Arenson-Fuller (

Forty-five black bear sightings this year in town
help me imagine a large stuffed furball seated
on the pine glider, shaded by the tall
Dutch Elm awning and framed by beds of lilies,
strawberries and cream.
She smiles and turns pages of a storybook
about three little humans who visit her den
and sample her hospitality.
She is sure she belongs and never questions
in whose life she has come to live, or why,
or whose daydreams she has annexed.

I lean into the sun in the old lady’s field
behind the barn, hoping to coax my skin
into a warm new friendship instead
of claiming the redhead’s cancer birthright.
My grief sits on the grass in a Chinese takeout
carton where I packed it up for safe keeping
Sometimes I place it on the soft curve of my
belly and it rests, no longer heavy like cold stone
calling cards on graves, but now light, airy
nuggets of tears stir-fried carefully with smiles
and frozen-frame memories.

This grief is like some prosthetic limb
I wish I did not wear, and when I detach
it and hang it on the chair, I find it still
under the old worn quilt.
It steadies my core and carries me over
young meadows that wake early to stretch
and rub the dew from green eyes.
The limb is part of the body now,
incorporated into a company I did not know
I would ever inherit.
Daydreams crawl into my arms to nuzzle at
my breast as I study the sky, hoping
it is not a mirage.
Unlike my bear, I sometimes wonder in whose
life I have come to live, or if some creature
from a world I never dream has hijacked
my soul to weave into an intricate tale
and nested it in a florist’s box.
Then I spot the box, next to the bear
on the glider and I understand that
They have both been there, rocking,
waiting for me to find them today
under the Dutch Elm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob, I am so honored that you would choose to use my poem to illustrate your very sensitive and true piece on expression of grief and integration of it into the new lives of the survivors. Thank you.

In the brief time I have known you through our work with the International Coach Academy, I have been highly impressed by your talent as a writer and your superb listening, observing and intuiting. I know that as clients become aware of your gifts your coaching practice will mushroom.