The poetry of grief: Griefbursts and silent screams

(An update of an older post, for the sake of new people who come across this blog.)

Grief can leave us feeling wretched. There is an acute pain when someone you love dies, a pain that can be felt physically on occasion. On the long journey of adjustment – becoming accustomed to living life without the presence of this precious person – we go through ups and downs.

Some of the ups and downs can be quite drastic. Eventually the road usually smooths out somewhat, but you never know when you’re going to hit a dip. 

This is the story of one of the dips a few years after Catherine died.  It’s now some years since I wrote this and I do not feel like this now. My grief for my children is still present, but it is rarely intense, and certainly not the agony I describe below.

Still, I thought it worthwhile sharing again, as when I first posted this poem I got quite a bit of positive reaction to it. We need people to be open, honest and real about the pain of loss; it seems to give others permission to do the same. I hope you don’t feel like what I describe below at this moment, but if you do, take heart. Grief won’t always be so unbearable. 

(Written in January 2017)

I was thrust down memory lane today, for an occasion when I wasn’t even present but I have a fairly clear idea of what happened. I know the soundtrack. I know the place. I know the outcome.

And in that moment, all the being busy and productive, all the excitement of an upcoming holiday, all the focus on working on the seminars and retreats and other projects, all of that just faded into nothingness. It was gone.

I wanted desperately to get the memory image out of my head, but in that place and time, in that moment, it seemed so present.

So this is what I did:

I screamed today.
A silent scream.
Nobody saw.
Nobody heard.
I clenched my fists
And breathed in deep

A silent scream
Nobody saw.
Nobody heard.
There were no words.
None to speak
None to say.

I closed my eyes
Shut them tight
My face was creased
And stretched
Muscles tense
But soundless

My silent scream
Came from the heart
From a place so deep
There are no words
I didn’t cry
I just bore down

I screamed alone
Without a sound
There is no why
Nor where and how
For what, it can’t be said
But for whom.

I screamed today.
A silent scream.
For her, that special one
The one who long is dead.

Then I went back to my desk and carried on working. Here I am four hours later, debating whether to make this a blog post or not.

I’ve decided yes, to post this, not primarily because it is about me and my daughter, but in acknowledgement of anyone who is living with loss who has those momentary moments of mad grief.

It’s the price we pay for love, as someone once said.

One expert calls this a griefburst.  It’s an apt description, because it implies that it’s a temporary state. It doesn’t last.

We can pick up and go on from it. It does help to talk about it, but failing an opportunity to do so, then putting our words on a page can also help.

And so, breathing in and out, gazing out the window at the clouds in the dusky sky, I’ll take this moment for what it is: A moment.

The sky’s been changing colour since I started writing this. It was gloomy before, but now there are slight shades of pink; sunset is approaching. It’s a better moment.

When we have these griefburst moments, it helps to remember, they pass. We will go on to love – and grieve – another day.


A sunset from another day, with a beautiful murmuration (flock) of starlings making the most of the moment.

P.S. If you find ever yourself needing to talk through a particularly difficult moment, and you have nobody around that you can unload on, then calling a helpline might help.  Here’s a page with some phone numbers

If you are generally feeling quite overwhelmed and that you’re not yet coping with your grief, you might like to consider attending one of the events I run. There is a bursary fund to help make this more affordable if needed. Visit this page for more information

For more poems and ‘poetry of grief’, visit: Poetry – Read About Grief (

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