Bereavement Poetry - Death Is But A Door

Posted at 16:06pm on 25th September 2009


I lost my daughter some years ago, so I know what it’s like dealing with the loss of a loved one. You wonder what life is all about; whether you’re the only person who feels you way you feel; if there is any sense in the pain you’re going through; and how much more you can bear?

Sometimes it seems no one wants to talk to you about death, generally; or the loss you’ve suffered, in particular. But your loss, your loved one, is the only topic on your mind. And no one seems to understand!

You don’t know how others cope with such intense sorrow. You marvel at those who appear to take it in their stride. Did they never feel as if they were splintering into pieces, as you do? Does the manner in which people die make a difference to the way in which we all grieve? Or do grief and loss conform to a pattern?


It seems that they do. The five stages of grief are well documented. Even so, you feel life will never be the same again. And it won’t! It hits you like a sledge hammer, when you least expect it. One minute you’re fine. The next -

Perhaps it’s worse when you’re dealing with sudden death. My daughter had a heroin habit for years. She finally kicked it and went on to live a happy, fulfilled life. So in a way it was even more of a shock when she died five years later. When sudden death occurs in suspicious circumstances, there’s always a sense of could I, should I, have done more?


At the time, I had no internet access, so I knew nothing of websites specialising in grief, loss and bereavement. Someone gave me a wall-hanging about the loss of a child, but it didn’t occur to me that there might be poems for bereaved parents. Besides, being an author, it was natural for me to write about my feelings: that’s my way of working things out; of relieving the pain.

Hence my novel, A Painful Post Mortem. The plot is about a sudden death by misadventure. It’s inspired by my own story, and it begins with a mother grieving the loss of her daughter - a young woman: the mother of a baby girl – and goes on to show how the members of her family deal with the grieving process. Alongside the guilt and anger, which are a natural part of grief and bereavement, there are fond memories and a sense of learning something about life.

It’s a sad subject, but at its heart is the enduring nature of love.

And that’s what one of the characters tries to convey in the poem she writes for the funeral. What she’s saying is that you may find yourself coping with the loss of a loved one at any time of life. You might lose a child in infancy; when they’re school age; or when they’re adult and have had a child themselves – as my daughter had. But it doesn’t have to be the end, says the character who’s written the poem. If we have hope, if we believe, she says, then there’s only a door between life and death; that’s all that separates us from our loved ones.


Following is an excerpt from A Painful Post Mortem which puts the bereavement poem in context. In the passage below, Rosie, Katya’s sister, has been asked to take part in the funeral Service.


“The scent of lilies was heavy in the air, and she felt, momentarily, a sense of dizzy unreality. Katya’s coffin looked tiny from here, and she hardly dared look as a white wreath forming the word mummy swam into her vision. She looked round, half expecting to see Zara, but that was ridiculous, and when her eyes alighted on Mick, she remembered that the child was at his mother’s.

She drew a deep breath and, with shaking fingers, pulled out the folded page on which she’d typed the poem her father had requested, Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar. She smiled, bravely, at him before she began.

When she lifted her eyes during the reading, she felt stronger. By the time she finished, there were those in the congregation who were crying, openly. She cleared her throat.

‘I have another poem here,’ she said, taking a second sheet from the pocket of her jacket. ‘It arrived by post a couple of days ago, and was written especially for this occasion, by my mother’s closest friend, Helen. She and her husband, Harry, were unable to be here this morning, in the flesh, so they wanted to assure my parents that they were with them in spirit.’

In the front pew, Claire kept her eyes down. Rosie continued:

‘Helen particularly wanted me to say that death can overtake any one of us – or our loved ones – at any time of life; when we least expect it. At birth. As children. As parents. She wanted me to say that we need to be prepared for that. And that we should hold onto the hope that the Tennyson poem offers. Helen’s poem is titled, From a Child to a Mother.’ She stood in silence, composing herself for a moment, then she began to read.


If I leave you with the sunrise
When I’ve scarcely drawn a breath,

When the cord that still connects us

Brings not life, but only death;
When your labours leave you fruitless
And your heart is feeling sore,
Will you mourn me – but remembering
That death is but a door.

I may stay a little longer
‘Til the sun has climbed the sky,
When you’ve answered all my questions
But I keep on asking Why?
And you’ve read me all the stories
But I go on wanting more;
Will you mourn me – but remembering
That death is but a door.

You may lose me when I’m adult
And the sun is high at
When I’ve given you a grandchild,
And my leaving is too soon;
Will you teach my child to love me?
Let her know what I stood for?
So she’ll mourn me – but remembering
That death is but a door.

It may be that I shall tarry
‘Til the sun sinks into dusk,
When my body’s bent and withered
Like dried wheat within the husk,
And I’m left with only memories –
Since you have gone before,
Then I’ll mourn you – but remembering
That LIFE is but a door.”


If you have come to my website because you’re dealing with loss and grief and the pain is overwhelming, take a look at other related articles by clicking on the following links.

Bereavement: Dealing With The Death Of A Loved One

The Initial Shock Of Losing Someone You Love - How To Cope

Dealing With Denial, Grief And Anger Following Bereavement

Making Funeral Arrangements

Loss And Bereavement Poetry: Weep For A While

Poetry For Grief: In The Silence Of Friends

Bereavement Poetry: Crossing The Bar By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Or you may wish to purchase a copy of A Painful Post Mortem (see below) which many people have written to say they’ve found helpful. The book has recently been adopted by The Bereaved Parents’ Network – one of many grief support groups - as a resource which will be promoted at their events. All proceeds raised from sales of the book support charities benefiting children, as a tribute to my daughter. (See my website for details).

Sometimes wise words from kindly-meaning friends just aren’t enough to stem the tears and sorrow. And sometimes encouragement from those same friends sounds a little like a reproach. When all you want is a hug and understanding, it’s good to know that you’re not alone; that someone else has been where you are now, and knows what it’s like. That’s what I hope my book will be to you: a friend. And that the painful post mortem of the events that led up to my loss will resonate with memories of your own. And that through my story, you may find one who silently stands by your side, in a place where words are superfluous.

© Mel Menzies, April 2008 -
The author of eight books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller, Mel is also an experienced Speaker and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+ in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows. Her books may be purchased online from her website, Amazon, or Booklocker ALL PROFITS FROM book sales are for charity.
Statement: A Painful Post Mortem has recently been adopted by The Bereaved Parents’ Network – one of many grief support groups - as a resource which will be promoted at their events. Money raised from the sale of the book is used to support charities, as a tribute to my daughter (See my website for details)

FREE Reprint Rights – This article may be reproduced in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in your e-zine or on your website, on condition that the author copyright line, bio and statement shown above, are included at the end of the article.

The Poem contained in this article may be printed alone, or read aloud, only as part of a funeral or thanksgiving service, on condition that the author copyright line and bio shown above are included in the Order of Service.

RELATED ARTICLES: Bereavement, Grief & Loss

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