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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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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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Modern Loss cofounder Rebecca Soffer shares stories from her post-loss life

After losing both of her parents, Rebecca Soffer started having monthly dinner parties with a group she named WWDP (Women With Dead Parents). These raw and often irreverent gatherings eventually became Modern Loss, a vibrant community that offers support and validation via blog posts, advice columns, and events. Its most enthusiastic supporters now have the opportunity to become Patreon members, receiving access to exclusive benefits.

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When Grief is Overwhelming

These are truly unsettling times. While many of us feel powerless, there is healing power in doing whatever we can to regain a measure of control, no matter how small that step may seem. One strategy is to set aside a few minutes each day (or maybe just a few minutes every week) to grieve and reflect. In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I call this strategy Give Memories 100%. It may include carving out a moment to linger over photographs or re-read old letters, emails, and birthday cards. Devoting uninterrupted time to remembering is healing. It gives emotions their due. We are able to move forward without guilt or reservation because no emotion is given short shrift.

Here are eight stay-at-home projects to consider doing right now. They offer opportunities for a real emotional boost and include links to helpful blog posts that explain each one in detail.

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New York Times Bestselling Author Peggy Orenstein on Whether Grief Ever Goes Away

is out with her latest book, Boys & Sex, an analysis of young men and their views on relationships, porn, love, and consent. The book is a follow-up to her New York Times best seller Girls & Sex. And because Orenstein is still on tour promoting her book, I was thrilled she agreed to sit down with me to reveal her thoughts about a much different, equally intimate topic: the death of her mother.

During our conversation, Orenstein struck me when she admitted to feeling a special connection to individuals who find themselves in similar positions. “I feel I have an ongoing relationship with people who’ve also suffered the loss of a parent because I’ve survived. Because I didn’t die.” I’m especially grateful to bring you our Q&A.

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New York Times Bestselling Author Laurie Halse Anderson Reveals the Lessons Grief Teaches Us

In her memoir, Shout, New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson turns away from her career as one of America’s most acclaimed authors of historical fiction and writes about being raped when she was 13. The experience transformed her adolescence and framed her emotional life well into adulthood.

I’ve known Laurie for a while now. We both went to Georgetown University, and since we met, I’ve always been impressed by her wit and generosity. I’m absolutely thrilled she agreed to talk with me about another deeply personal part of her life — the loss of her parents. In our Q&A, Laurie shares the lessons grief has taught her about living life to the fullest.

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Allison Gilbert’s 2019 Gift List for Grievers

Do you know anyone who could use a little extra TLC this holiday season? Of course you do. So do I. To make it easier for all of us to be the kinds of friends or relatives we most want to be, I’m launching my first Gift List for Grievers. And because self-care following loss is so important, I encourage you to put yourself on your holiday gift list, too.

Here’s my 2019 Gift List for Grievers.

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Three Ways to Boost Memories of Loved Ones This Thanksgiving

Holidays can be challenging for individuals who’ve lost loved ones, but they also offer unrivaled opportunities for keeping memories of family and friends alive. Below are three of my favorite ways to honor and celebrate the special people we never want to forget.

Make Memory Magnets
Rather than using conventional place cards at your holiday gathering, create memory magnets featuring images of your loved ones. Encourage family members to take these sentimental favors home to use on their refrigerators or washing machines. This simple project takes just a few minutes to do. Learn how by reading this.

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What You Can Do Right Now to Remember Loved Ones This Holiday Season

I know, I know. It’s only October. But with the holidays coming fast, it’s the perfect time to strategize how you’re going to honor and celebrate the family and friends you never want to forget. How? Keep reading.

Halloween
Stir recollections of Halloweens past and make new memories by attending unusual events. You can also give cherished heirlooms a creepy Halloween makeover.

Thanksgiving
Set your holiday table meaningfully and carve out time to create a special holiday playlist. Cooking also connects us to loved ones. Make a cherished dessert or frame a love-worn handwritten recipe card, using it as a sentimental centerpiece. As Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow explains in one of her cookbooks, “I always feel closest to my father…when I am in the kitchen.”

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