Resources for Loss

“On the Death of the Beloved” by John O’Donohue, contributed by Abigail Wright (2023)

On the Death of the Beloved / John O’Donohue

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives,
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of color.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being,
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was alive, awake, complete.

We look toward each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Besides us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

In this poem, John O’Donohue is honoring the loss of someone dear to his heart while also celebrating the vibrant life they lived. Much of what we have discussed in class and section has been about grief’s many forms and the responses people have to losing a loved one, whereas in this poem I appreciated the aspect of celebration and joy that is brought through his reflective writing. 

I have highlighted a few lines in particular that spoke to me when speaking on the reflection of a lost loved one’s life and how they should be remembered. In the first, the poet uses the words “alive, awake, complete” to describe this person’s life, making it feel fulfilled and well lived. He then speaks in the second highlighted section of how the lost one would have wanted their life to be remembered and celebrated.  I feel as if this poem allows space for people to find peace in someone’s death and moments of joy in the memories they have of their loved one. The importance of not only grieving a loss but celebrating all that the lost one brought to your life and the lives of others is essential in finding peace in one’s grief journey. More times than not, the reason losing someone brings so much pain to their loved ones’ lives is due to the amount of joy they brought to their lives before they passed. Reflecting, remembering, and, most importantly, celebrating those happy moments from one’s past life can oftentimes bring some form of comfort to the bereaved.

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