thinking about loss

I wrote this post months ago and never published it…but the words feel even more close to my heart now with the recent loss of my dear grandfather.

Oh how much I love reading poems by Mary Oliver…

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
–Mary Oliver, Dream Work

“To mourn for one is to mourn for all. To mourn with all is to fully participate at the very foundation of Being Itself. For some reason, which I have yet to understand, beauty hurts. Suffering opens the channel through which all of Life flows and by which all creation breathes, and I still do not know why. Yet it is somehow beautiful, even if it is a sad and tragic beauty.” –Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater

Tonight I’m thinking about loss, about “meanwhile the world goes on”, this strange yet beautiful thing about suffering intertwined with being and living. Loss is an undertone, a rhythm I am learning to accept, learning to move with instead of fight against.

…Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the praries and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meantwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again…



Life keeps moving, carrying hearts that are sometimes celebrating and sometimes aching — and sometimes a lot of both at once.

I once thought that loss was something to reject: to fight against, to insist in overcoming, even though I knew that was impossible. But loss, according to Rohr, is necessary to “fully participate at the very foundation of Being Itself.”

What a paradox — to mourn and grieve (think: absence) as a necessary way to live (think: presence). Tonight, Mary Oliver brings comfort — because of that word “meanwhile” — life’s continued movement, despite loss and heartache, the sun continuing to shine and the geese flying home. And Rohr brings a normalcy to this thing called loss — that it is part of the very fabric of being.


4 thoughts on “thinking about loss

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart, Alyssa. Sorry to hear about your loss of dear your grandfather. Yes, it is a somewhat perplexing dichotomy for the mind and emotions, to mourn -which places us in present and past, and our dealing with what we are without in the future- and to yet have to move on from present into future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since reading this freshman year at Westmont, it has always been tucked away in my heart when I hear about friends and family members experiencing loss.

    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” – Bonhoeffer

    But recently I’ve been diving into the wonderful world that is Anne Lamott and her writing on loss and suffering is simple (almost colloquial) and still very profound to me.

    “You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

    “I have seen many people survive unsurvivable losses, and seen them experience happiness again. How is this possible?
    Love flowed to them from their closest people, and from their community, surrounded them, sat with them, held them, fed them, swept their floors. Time passed. In most cases, their pain evolved slowly into help for others. The great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. / I awoke and saw that life was service. / I acted and behold, service was joy.”

    Wishing we were talking about this over coffee at zumi’s, or maybe on the sunny side of lane trying to unpack the theology of grief and loss. Loss is normalized because there are people in your life who will sweep your floors, make you dinner, hear your grief, and still walk forward in life as you navigate the fluidity of grief and mourning.

    Keep writing.


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