How to Mourn


We stopped the clock a week ago

while my brother slept on the couch.

The ticking kept him up.

I’m wearing my father’s watch

But I can’t hear it.


Friends have come and gone.

They didn’t stay

but we have lots of food.

I wish to remember

but it turns me sad

and I have work to do.


Here is my dream:

Skating in circles

on a frozen lake.

If it melts I drown.

If not I skate forever

round and round.


For what should I wish?

I wake.

939 Hits

Public Mourning Is Naked

Our Green Room friend Charlie Killleen posted a powerful essay about self awareness In it he asks " who needs be to told he's grieving?" I feel that many of us do need to be told. Surprisingly grieving is often perceived as self indulgence: strong people just get on with it. Here is my essay about  similar sentiments: 


In the first year of my widowhood I sought solace in the company of other women in the same circumstances as mine. Being confused and overwhelmed, I felt  that if I spent enough time with experienced widows, I could learn from them how to cope. Perhaps I was also hoping to skip some of the steps of mourning, and to expedite the healing process.

So I contacted a woman, whose husband died the previous year, I had met her before at social gatherings since her late husband was a colleague of my husband. We liked each other, had a lot in common, and as we were both lonely, we became fast friends. It was comforting to spend time together: we took long walks along the sea, went to concerts, and couple of times even drove out of town for the whole day.

Then all of a sudden, without warning, she ended our friendship. She claimed that there were other obligations and that she was too busy and had no time to meet up. I didn’t understand what was wrong, and wondered if it was something that I had said or done. I wrote her a letter and apologized, in case I had hurt her feelings without noticing. She replied that it wasn't my fault, but never made alternative plans to meet or expressed any wish to see me again.

Not long ago I heard on This American Life that “public mourning is naked.” I don’t remember the context, but I found those words so moving that I recorded them in my notebook, and wrote underneath: desperation, neediness, empathy. 

In Biblical times the words "naked" and "public mourning" were connected, and had a physical/literal meaning. At that time tearing one’s clothing, especially in front of a crowd, was the custom of the land,  and  it was a powerful expression of pain and sorrow: Job 1: 20

“Then Job arose, and tore his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshiped.” (World English Bible)

Tearing the robe and shaving the hair were outward (public) signs of grief. Originally, people would rip their garments as soon as they heard the sad news. The mourner tore  his clothing until he exposed his heart.

In a more figurative sense,  these words paint a picture of deep sorrow. In displaying grief I expose my heart. Being naked also  means that the masks have been removed, leaving me unprotected, vulnerable and at risk. Expressing raw emotions (or as the idiom goes: wearing my heart on my sleeve) is probably too uncomfortable, and embarrassing, for those around me. Therefore, and since public mourning is no longer in fashion, it is probably prudent to do it quietly and privately.

It has been almost seven years, and I was fortunate  to find other women friends (not only widows), with whom I share my feelings. But every once and a while I think about that friend and the time we spent together. I don't blame her, after all her husband died only a year earlier, and she had her own mourning to deal with. I still don't understand why she stopped being my friend, but when I heard the statement: “public mourning is naked” I realized that this was part of the answer: it was probably the nakedness of my grief which felt too close and scared my friend away.

1745 Hits

Latest Blogs

Over the years, I’ve written about some of life’s certainties — birth, death, time and change. You can guarantee we will all experience those things. ...
    This is the moment she lets down her hair, newly washed at the Belfast sink, and offers it to a beneficent sun. The coiled braids, set...
  It is said that John Milton was Blind And the world that he served was Unkind So he waited to See Standing Gloriously For he couldn’t go blind in ...
  Samuel fancied a Dream But Xanadu vanished Abeam Of the pipe and the Puff For the love of the Stuff He imagined a higher Esteem...
  "The problem is not so much to see what nobody has yet seen, as to think what nobody has yet thought concerning that which everybody sees"  Arthur ...

Latest Comments

Rosy Cole Florence
17 June 2020
Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.
Stephen Evans Florence
16 June 2020
Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.
Monika Schott PhD Farm Reflections: Lands faraway
15 June 2020
Thanks Rosy. The story had to be told and I've been the fortunate person to be able to tell it. The ...
Stephen Evans Milton: A Limerick
15 June 2020
Helpful context
Rosy Cole Farm Reflections: Lands faraway
15 June 2020
Monika has taken us on a wonderfully illuminating journey, full of interest and humanity. We are so ...