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my favorite poem

After my mother died, I found this typewritten poem stashed in a book that had belonged to her. Reading it, so deep in my grief, I felt equal blows of tough-love and compassion. My mother’s parenting style was steeped in that dichotomy: She loved me so fiercely, so unconditionally, she’d sooner let me fail than rescue me. I’d learn best, she might have said, if I understood life as a case study in cause and effect. Reading the poem that day, attributed to Elsie Robinson, it was my mother’s voice that filled my ears. And that felt welcome, needed, and healing.

But who was Elsie Robinson? I had never heard the name before and have spent much of the last 20 years finding out. In my research for my forthcoming book, the first biography of Robinson (1883-1956), I’ve learned she was once the highest paid nationally syndicated female columnist at Hearst. She was a writer who gave a voice to a generation of women and launched a movement that decades later included Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Researching and writing this biography has created a new, living connection to my mother, as if she’s sitting next to me as I type. 

Below is the poem I found more than 25 years ago. I’ve written it out for you, in its entirety. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it’s brought me. To learn more about Robinson and keep up to date on the book’s progress, please join my newsletter list. I promise not to bombard you; I send notes only once a month.

 

PAIN by Elsie Robinson

Why must I be hurt?
Suffering and despair,
Cowardice and cruelty,
Envy and injustice,
All of these hurt.
Grief and terror,
Loneliness and betrayal
And the agony of loss or death –
All these things hurt.
Why? Why must life hurt?
Why must those who love generously,
Live honorably, feel deeply
All that is good – and beautiful
Be so hurt,
While selfish creatures
Go unscathed?
That is why—
Because they can feel.
Hurt is the price to pay for feeling.
Pain is not accident,
Nor punishment, nor mockery
By some savage god.
Pain is part of growth.
The more we grow
The more we feel –
The more we feel – the more we suffer,
For if we are able to feel beauty,
We must also feel the lack of it –
Those who glimpse heaven
Are bound to sight hell.
To have felt deeply is worth
Anything it cost.
To have felt Love and Honor,
Courage and Ecstasy
Is worth – any price.
And so – since hurt is the price
Of Larger living, I will not
Hate pain, nor try to escape it.
Instead I will try to meet it
Bravely, bear it proudly:
Not as a cross, or a misfortune, but an
Opportunity, a privilege, a challenge – to the God that
gropes within me.

2020 Gift List for Grievers

Facing the holidays without your loved one is hard. Covid-19 makes it harder. Our inability to gather with friends and family, to receive hugs and kisses, is leaving too many of us feeling unmoored and alone. 

So, here’s what I’ve done:

I’ve created a holiday gift list for grievers and those who love them. What will you find below? Presents that demonstrate you understand this holiday season is unlike any other. And because self-care following loss is so important, I encourage you to put yourself on your holiday gift list, too. Please know I’ve personally curated the ten unique gift ideas, and I hope they’ll bring a measure of joy and meaning to your holiday season.

Here’s my 2020 Gift List for Grievers.

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5 Amazing Photo Gift Ideas

Too early to think about the holidays? I think now is the perfect time! COVID-19 has sharpened my focus on what’s most important to me. Without the ability to do much of anything in public these last few months, I’ve spent most weekends tidying up my home, getting rid of clutter, and organizing and digitizing family photographs. And it’s all been making me feel stronger and boosting my appreciation for all that’s still positive in my life — my friends, family, and yes, even my very loud cat.

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uncertainty distress. yes, it’s a thing.

Like so many parents who’ve had the opportunity to drop off kids at college these past few weeks, I’m wrestling with familiar empty nest questions about what’s ahead for me. But I’m also struggling, because of the anxiety brought on by Covid-19, with a new type of syndrome, more akin to the phantom pain we associate with the amputation of a limb than letting go of a burgeoning adult. 

The first few nights without my children at home I was jolted awake by imaginary text messages. But each time there were no new words written by my son worried about a rising fever or my daughter concerned about a tickle in her throat. So far, they are fine. It was me who’d become temporarily unable to sleep through the night. 

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why bereavement care should receive federal funding

As Covid-19 deaths continue to rise, a conversation is bubbling up in Washington about what kind of support is available to grieving families, and whether bereavement care, like other forms of healthcare, should receive federal funding, and if so, how much.

In March, as much of the nation was shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, nine key U.S. Department of Health & Human Service agencies, including National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were pushed by Evermore, a non-profit advocacy group, to report to Congress what grief-specific resources are available right now to Americans in need. Follow-up came Sunday evening, July 12 when the House Committee on Appropriations made the same request as lawmakers debate the 2021 federal budget. Both requests are historic, marking the ​first attempts to get f​ederal agencies to report on the state of bereavement care in the United States.

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Making Meaning and Purpose Out of Tragedy

On 9/11, I was a television news producer for NBC New York. Dispatched to the World Trade Center, I was covered by debris when the second tower collapsed and taken to Bellevue Hospital. ER doctors cut off my clothes to assess my injuries and tubes were put down my throat to help me breathe. I thought I was pregnant. (To round out the week, my father died of cancer that Friday, September 14, 2001.)

Yet I was one of the lucky ones. I survived.

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