grief, loss, sadness, depression, emotion, death, life, coping, sharing, love

I measure every Grief I meet (561)

Poet Emily Dickinson, born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830, influenced poetry for centuries to come with her distinctly American voice and prose. Her daring poetry often explored dismal but profoundly human topics, such as death, grief, love, and life. 

Dickinson’s poem entitled “I Measure Every Grief I Meet”, is a meditation on a devastating universal human experience – grief. In an attempt to understand her own grief, she is confronted with her own questions about the grief of others. Do we all experience grief the same way? With the same intensity? Can one ever truly heal from grief?

Noticing that some people seem to regain their joy thanks to the healing powers of time, she writes wondering if this renewed happiness will last. Finally, the author is comforted by the realization that suffering and grief is a universal human emotion, and though we may not be able to escape its grip, we can take refuge in the fact that grief is a journey we can share in.

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain – 

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die – 

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile – 

An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil – 

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –  

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –  

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –  

There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –  

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –  

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own – “

Image Credits:
Feature Image: K. Mitch Hodge, On Unsplash, Creative Commons