Seven Metaphors For Grief


The pale pink tulips are drooping, stems withered beyond saving.

I carry their vase over to the sink, dump out the water, crush the stems into the compost bin. Absentmindedly I wonder aloud. “I really thought we were going to get more time with these.”

As soon as the words leave my mouth, we are erupting with laughter.


Rain drives down in sheets onto the windshield, wipers frantically sluicing water back and forth, back and forth. I barely hear his small voice from the backseat as the downpour hammers on the car roof. Then I spy the bridge ahead.

“Watch this, buddy,” I holler back to him. “I can turn off the rain.”

For one second under the overpass, we are surprised by silence.

Then the splatters smack down even harder, deafening.

“You can’t stop the rain, mama!” he yells. “You know that’s impossible!”


Uh-uh! A forest! A big dark forest.

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. 

Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!

(Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Walker Books, 1997.)


The scar is uneven, angry pink.

It will stay numb for a year, the doctor tells me. Nerve cells take the longest to heal.


One dark tree spindles bare in the backyard, lonely among the lush green. It stands taller than the rest, its dead branches still reaching up to the sky.

All spring I watch everything around it bud, burst forth, bloom into life.

It never bears leaves.

Every summer storm shakes its jagged trunk, limbs waving as if in despair.

But it has not fallen. Yet.


The first few months are like this, all the books and experts try to console you.

Sleep regressions. Periods of inconsolable crying. Inexplicable crankiness. Always wanting to be held.

Eventually smiles emerge, slowly. That helps. A little.


The way you know a stratus cloud is that it is always thick. Like a blanket.

He informs me over the top of his naptime book.

Sometimes it is so high up, it seems to cover the whole earth. That is cirrostratus.

Sometimes it is right in the middle of the sky. But at least you can see the sun peeking through. That is altostratus.

Sometimes it is so low you might feel like you could breathe it in. That is nimbostratus.

That’s when you know it’s going to rain.

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  1. Sarah on 22 June 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Your writing is just beautiful.

  2. Jenny Ryan on 21 June 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Unbearably beautiful.

  3. amy on 21 June 2016 at 1:38 pm

    This is brutiful. Thank you for sharing your gift.

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