Hierarchy of Loss

“CHERRY TREE”, 1999, 30″ x 50″, m/m

Yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of people

Who were negotiating the loss of their spouse.

I watched myself mired in nerves

The night before I was to speak.

I have not had the experience of a great love

Let alone the loss of one.

I worried that I would be able to make a bridge

Between our different kind of losses.

I needn’t have concerned myself

As the losses we each had/and were experiencing

Have more in common than not…

The core of loss is the human experience

Of living in a self-created tapestry

Of experience so familiar and trusted

That it feels TRUE;

Walking, waking next to a beloved, putting on a sock without struggle, calling home and expecting an answer.

When some sort of shattering occurs

And the status quo

Is no longer,

We meet the VACUUM.

Empty. (at least of what was..)

Foreign. (because it used to be filled with streets we knew by heart)

And unwelcome. (because we want what we want when we want it).

It takes years of negotiating the shattered shards of mirror on the floor

To see that our reflection

Is dependent solely on our point-of-view.


When we’re done with the dirty and damp sheets

We’ve pulled over our heads

All the mornings we didn’t have it in us

To do the re-entry,

We get up

And chance a sideways glance

Into a different mirror

And perhaps dab on a bit of perfume

And see what’s out there.

‘Round a corner we’ve never travelled…

Stop at a pub and feign confidence…

Buy a hat with a feather

And feed the ducks in the park.

A moment, an hour, a day..

Whatever we can hold.

And onward we go…

And onward we go….

A slight nod to the person we pass in silence

As we see the carefully concealed tatters in her coat

That look just like our own.


3 Responses to “Hierarchy of Loss”

  1. Laura Hegfield on April 14th, 2011

    Oh Cathy you are right on…suffering is suffering…grief is grief…loss is loss…and when we open our hearts to see our face reflected in someone elses … somehow we cannot help but recognize beauty, compassion, connection… the bridge is not so hard to cross, even for those of us who struggle with walking.

  2. Alexandra on April 16th, 2011

    How is it that you touch me so deeply with your words: a flood of tears everytime. thank-you for your great gift of soul writing to us all. love,love.

  3. Carol S on April 17th, 2011

    A good friend loss her spouse this year, and you’ve made me think about what she’s experiencing…in the mirror each day. I’m glad you connected with that group.

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