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Thoughts on grief from John O’Donohue

March 06, 2009 | | Comments 2

We were very moved by this blessing for grief. The moving and poignant words were read for us at the funeral of our baby, Roxanne. They were written by the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue and come from his book of blessings called Benedictus.

John O'Donohue - Irish Poet & Philosopher

John O'Donohue - Irish Poet & Philosopher

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

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  1. Cath Kenny says:

    I came across your posting as I wanted this blessing for my counselling essay on this sensitive topic. I have not experienced your loss, but feel moved just reading this blessing, and then your comments. I just wanted to say that I hope time has healed, a little, your sadness over baby Roxanne’s departure from this life.
    Blessings indeed, to you and yours.
    Cath X

  2. Cath Kenny says:

    And then I came across another of his blessings on Page 86 of Benedictus, and hope you don’t mind me letting you know of it. For the parents on the death of a child.
    “Perhaps you will glimpse
    How your eternal child
    Has become an unseen angel..”

    Thinking of and feeling for you.
    Cath X

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