The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Bereavement Poems | Poems Could Help Us Navigate Bereavement

Restoration Through Words: How Poems Could Help Us Navigate Bereavement

Bereavement poems, eulogies, and even sympathy cards all seem to ask for words that are hard to provide while grieving. Losing someone close shakes us to the core of our identity. Some people even question the very nature of their reality after the loss of someone dear. How, then, is it possible to suggest that words might be healing when there are no words that could adequately express the depth of mourning? Well, it helps to remember that penning down one’s feelings is not going to remedy the situation or turn back time, but it can give us space to simply be ourselves, suffering and all.

Confronting Our Own Avoidance

Experiential avoidance occurs when the thought of dealing with memories, thoughts, emotions, and experiences is so painful, that we would rather circumvent them altogether. This is a natural, normal coping mechanism that is sometimes necessary to enable people in anguish to function through the demands of their day. Suppressing this internal world for too long, however, might not be healthy. Feelings that simmer beneath the surface for years on end do not go away – they need to be tenderly handled. Writing is an exercise in combating experiential avoidance, and it need not open the floodgates of grief all at once. Short bereavement poems, for example, can focus on a few small aspects of your grief without diving too deeply into every wound. Using this method, slowly but surely, you may begin to find some closure.

Grief Journaling as a form of Self-therapy

Therapists and counsellors have used writing exercises in their sessions for decades. This is because it offers patients a judgement-free space to express what is really happening on the inside. It accommodates honesty without the fear of rejection. While bereavement poems and letters make more of a stronger, once-off statement, grief journaling can accompany you in the ebb and flow of mourning. Grief will not always manifest in bouts of depression or weeping – sometimes it makes people feel numb, angry, or as though they are in a state of suspension. It comes in waves, and documenting these waves without shame can help people recognise just how far they have come in their journey to healing and acceptance.

Letters of Goodbye and Eulogies

Eulogies and bereavement poems are similar in that the writer is free to choose topics on which to speak. These topics might connect with others in mourning, paint a picture of fond memories, or it may act as a personal tribute and goodbye. Eulogies are usually read aloud at funerals or memorials, but they can also be printed out on memorabilia and given to loved ones in attendance. For this reason, very personal details and intimate feelings are often left out of eulogies and funeral poems written for the purpose of remembering someone collectively. They still have much value, though, in rallying loved ones together in unity and support.

Personal letters (and even personal poems) take a far closer look at our innermost emotions. Oftentimes, these penned words are addressed directly to the one who has passed on and might include deep-seated sentiment too private to share with anyone else. This form of writing is especially useful as it requires an authentic examination of the truth, which can be incredibly cathartic.

Introspective Bereavement Poems

Even in their brutal and jarring honesty, bereavement poems find meaning in sorrow. Now, this is not to say that the purpose of loss is to inspire beautiful works of art. Loss is profound enough to never need any embellishments to justify how hard it hits. But poems (like any other form of art) help us to explore hidden meanings in our existing pain. It enables a fresh perspective and alternate interpretation of what is happening during our healing journey, and this is exceptionally comforting to some.

If you are currently coming to terms with the passing of someone dear, you may find that crafting a written piece triggers a restorative emotional release. It may also help to read some bereavement poems from writers who understand your heartbreak. Here at The AVBOB Poetry Project, we have a library full of thousands of entries by gifted local writers. These poems can be found in all 11 official South African languages, and cover topics, such as death, birth, love, and hope under the umbrella theme, “I Wish I’d Said”. If you wish to explore this library, simply click here.