When Loss is over a hundred years old: Poems from 1893
by Kara L.C. Jones

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in my particular grief. There's this feeling that no one can understand unless they, too, have experienced stillbirth with circumstances similar to my experience. There's this feeling that no one on this planet can truly understand my grief process and my consequent drastically altered way of life.

When my moods get so terribly down that all my writings are drivel and it becomes difficult to get out of bed, well, then I read. And sometimes I'm very surprised to find writings like this:

"Let me come in where you sit weeping,-- aye,
Let me, who have not any child to die,
Weep with you for the little one whose love
      I have known nothing of..."

Excerpted from "Bereaved" by James Whitcomb Riley, published in 1893.


It overwhelms me to think of that. 1893. Grief is a beast that is unconquerable, a land that has no map, and yet it was almost 110 years ago that this man wrote of a grief I totally understand today. He goes on in the poem to explain that he would like to be of some service to the bereaved who are wailing over their dead child, but he is not able to help for he is overwhelmed with his own sadness at not being able to have any children at all. Yet he asks, "May I not weep with you?" and I imagine that he must have. Afterall, this poem is here today, weeping in my lap.

Riley's "Bereaved" poem was published as part of a collection called "Poems Here At Home,"
and when we housesat for some friends a couple of weeks ago, I found a first edition copy of the book on their collector's shelf. I was shocked to find the following piece also included in the collection:

"The Dead Wife"
by James Whitcomb Riley, 1893

Always I see her in a saintly guise
of lilled raiment, white as her own brow
when first I kissed the tear drops to the eyes
that smile forever now.

Those gentle eyes! They seem the same to me,
as, looking through the warm dews of mine own,
I see them gazing downward patiently
where, lost and all alone.

In the great emptiness of night, I bow
and sob aloud for one returning touch
of the dear hands that, Heaven having now,
I need so much -- so much!

Well, he may have felt unable to comfort the bereaved parent because he couldn't even have children, but he certainly knew grief considering the loss of his wife as written here. And I wonder if even a hundred years ago, people were feeling sorry for themselves, comparing grief as if one is better or worse, more or less worthy of comfort and attention. It reminds me that loss is loss is loss. Grief is Grief is Grief.

Sometimes when I get caught up in my particular grief, I just have to get outside myself, read a little, reach back a hundred years to Riley, or just reach over to my own husband to see that we are all capable of knowing grief and giving comfort. We all have the ability to be "Clueful" rather than "Clueless" when it comes to compassion for ourselves and others. But there are days when I have to make the effort to reach out to prevent getting caught up...


Poems Here at Home by James Whitcomb Riley
While this particular edition is a special release, rather expensive hardback release, it is the best of Riley's work from 1893! There is a resurrgence on interest in his works, some new re-releases and anthology collections coming soon, but this is the original's original!

Author Biography
Kara continues to live and work in order to make a legacy for her dead son Dakota. This is the third holiday season (2001) since Dakota died (1999), and Kara still finds this season to be painful and difficult. And to all those who think she should be "over it by now," she likes to point out that she is still without Dakota all these holidays later. When they can restore her precious son to her, then she will gladly comply with their demands that she "get over it." (...said rich with sarcasm...) Miracles to all of you who understand this sarcasm much too well.

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