The Gift of Grief (David Whyte)

One of the radical edges of experience is grief…

The prospect of facing up to the sharper edges of grief can prevent us from having the fullest experience of whatever frontier we are on… (because ) it’s always a great temptation to retreat away from that frontier…
to just “deal with it”…

This narrows the understanding of what you are actually confronting…

 The essence of the ability to feel the fiercer edges of experience is to fully incarnate our life at any one time;
the edges are our existence ripening, and the experience of them allows us to taste the ripe fruit of our experience, thereby celebrating and understanding the particular season that we are experiencing…

 Attempt to feel your aloneness in as startling and clear a way as possible…

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip

Beneath the still surface on

The well of grief

Turning down through its

Black water to the place

We cannot breathe

will never know

The source from which

We drink

The secret water

cold and clear

Nor find

In the darkness


The small round coins


By those who


for something else

There is a cycle of experience which human beings are heir to which is part of their inheritance…
If you do feel grief and loss fully, it’s suddenly placed in some kind of enormous context that makes sense, that gives you an essential understanding of the beauty and magnificence of the world which we occupy.

(David Whyte)

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Poetry, Voices


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mercy-and-grace13 years ago, this day delivered a crushing grief.

7 sisters & a single brother lost their mother to cancer. The youngest two were still in highschool.

Despite a life decimated by pain, by separation, by divorce, by alcoholism, by teeming loss–we were there for each other, and for her.

Mercy is the legacy our mother left us; her life’s trials and tribulations tousled by grace.

May we always be worthy.

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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie, Pure Love


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The lost castle

Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu’on a perdus.
The true paradises are those which we have lost.
~Marcel Proust

Better joy in a cottage than sorrow in a palace.


I was born beside the sea, delivered by the Sisters of Mercy, on the Feast of Immaculate Conception, of our Blessed Virgin Mary.  From there I was placed into the arms of an overbearing Queen, my beautiful grandmother Lila, and brought to live with her in a castle on a barrier reef.

Rich, green ivy climbed the castle’s brick walls, and tall white columns ushered in honored guests. At the foot of the steps was a golden engraving, bearing the castle’s name: Sixty-Twelve.

6012 was a child’s delight. There was a staircase taller than any father, and a cherry bannister that curved its way from earth to sky.  Soft green stairs cushioned the descent of any who chose to ride.

There was music too. Piped into every room. An orchestra playing just for you.

Crisp, cool, mountain air, brushed your skin as you glided from place to place, no matter what the temperature outside.

Deep lush carpets and plush thrones lured you in forbidden rooms.  An inner chamber beckoned you further–toward heavy drapes that hid the world outside. If you were brave and if you were strong, you could shove one of these aside and hold it in place with your face pressed against the glass to spy people passing by.

But better than the floor to window panes was the golden box built into a wall. If you could reach it, if you could drag a chair upon which to precariously stand, you might be able to touch the dials, and if so, your orchestra would grow hushed or suddenly boom.

The Queen would find you then.

Kelly Salasin, January 2013


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The End… of everything.

I was 14. The sun was shining. The day was perfect. Just right for July.

We stopped at McDonalds along the way. I got my own fries. (Daddy wasn’t there to say, “Share.” )

I ordered a milkshake. (Daddy wasn’t there to say, “No.”)

I’d been living like this for a month. No parents. No siblings. Just me and Larry and Linda who lived in the officer’s quarter’s next to ours. They gave me my very own room.

My sisters and my parents had moved to the shore and I had stayed behind to finish my first year of high school. Linda helped prepare me for my Regents exam in math while her nextdoor neighbor helped me with French. For the first time, I felt a part of the grown up world.

“Why are we going to the airport?” I asked.

“Your father’s flying in for the day, and he wants you to meet him.”

“Why is he flying in?”

“There was some kind of accident with one of the higher ups and your father was his doctor.”

They were lying. I didn’t notice.

I sipped on my shake. I ate my last fries. I licked the salt from my fingers.

We talked about my first year as a CIT (Counselor in Training.) I’d start at camp in a week. We talked about their time in the Peace Corps. I wanted to travel like them when I grew up.

We arrived at the small air field outside of West Point.

Floor to ceiling windows looked out over the runway so that we could see the small plane taxi in.  I opened the glass doors and stepped outside.

With one hand, I covered my eyes from the sun.  With the other, I took a last sip of the shake. Saliva stretched from my lips to the straw as  I tossed it into the trash can, and watched my father walk toward me.

I bounded down the wide set of stairs to meet him.

And then it was over…

My innocence.

My belief in God.

My Everything.

He drew me close, choking on the words: “There’s been an accident.

Kelly Salasin, 2013


Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Lanscape of Loss, Lila Stories


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A teenager from my son’s highschool was killed in a car accident yesterday afternoon.

My son missed the bus home, and now we need to find him a ride.

(At least he’s alive.)

When a child dies, it doesn’t matter whether you know him or his mom, it hurts deep inside.

My son missed the dinner I made for just the three of us.

(At least he’s alive.)

On Facebook, fellow teenagers pour out their hearts on Daniel’s wall: “We’ll miss you buddy.” “I can’t believe we won’t see you again.” “You’re the man.” “Rest in peace.” “I wish we hung out more.” “I only talked to you once or twice.” “I was such a bitch.” “I can’t imagine life without you.”

I worry about my son smoking pot or drinking beer.

(At least he’s alive.)

Daniel’s mom posts her son’s picture with the words, “Beautiful boy.”

Lloyd never calls me back to tell me when he’s getting home.

(I need to know he’s alive.)

Daniel’s grandmother was in the car too, and she’s just made it through a night of surgery.

My youngest son, Aidan, left this morning for his class field trip to Cape Cod. He’s only eleven.

(I hope he’s alive.)

Facebook mirrors the dichotomies of our lives–one lost and another’s just begun. Babies born. Hearts broken. Lost puppies found. All day long.

On this particular day, I’ve watched the posts of relatives make their way to Costa Rica for my cousin’s wedding. The Houston airport. Philadelphia. New York. Each about to intersect in a celebration of joy which takes place at 11:11 on 11/11/11.

While at the same time, Daniel’s wall continues to fill with voices from near and far, converging to say… goodbye.

Kelly Salasin, November 2011


Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Lanscape of Loss, Markers


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Mrs. B

bright eyes

beautiful smile

beach-lit hair

sun-kissed cheeks

warm heart

heavy burden

empty spot

Rest in peace Betty

you have loved and been loved

No doubt

a heavenly birthday

awaits you!

Kelly Salasin, October 2011

(Note: Betty first welcomed me into her home as a highschool friend of her son’s, and later became the beloved grandmother of my youngest siblings–when our mother Bonnie fell in love with her son.)

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie, Poetry


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The Blanket

“Not to take one’s own suffering seriously, to make light of it, or even laugh at it, is considered good manners in our culture… Many people are proud of their lack of sensitivity toward their own fate and above all their own childhood.”
~Alice Miller, Banished Knowledge

I lost my parents when I was 19. It wasn’t a car accident or a plane crash, it was a divorce.

That year psychology was my major, and so I researched the effect of divorce on children. This was a relatively new field in the early 80′s; and when I presented my findings to my sophomore class, I repeated what I had read (instead of what I felt): Older children cope well with divorce.

Since I’d long relied upon my thoughts, instead of feelings, I stuffed my feelings and put my focus on my younger siblings, becoming the guardian of what remained of our family: our history, our traditions, our memories.

My parents moved on–turning their backs on what came before and reinvesting their lives in new relationships–new loves, new family.

My siblings and I were left in a No Man’s Land, highlighted on that first Easter Sunday after the divorce; when each parent thought the other planned to have the kids for dinner (or perhaps didn’t think of us at all.)

We did the divorce-kid shuffle that morning: waking at Mom’s for an Easter Egg hunt and then heading over to Dad’s for a late brunch. Fortunately for them, I did all the driving; so they could avoid any future contact.

In the afternoon, our father quickly ushered us out so that he could rush over to his prospective in-laws for dinner.  We arrived back at home to a surprisingly empty house.

There was no ham in the oven, no Parker rolls, no applesauce with cinnamon, no mash potatoes and peas (that our father had always forced us to combine.)

We had been forgotten–all six of us.

I searched the refrigerator and cupboards for something to approximate an Easter dinner, but came up empty.

The “babies” (who were now actually preschoolers) searched the house for “Mommy,” while the middle two fought over candy. My second-in-command, at the tender age of 16, offered to shoot us all with the toy gun she held pointed at her heart.

I awkwardly called my mother at her future in-laws house, and she quickly abandoned her dinner there, arriving home with a box of frozen chicken from the convenience store.

Things didn’t go well for my mother in her second marriage. Her husband, twenty years her junior, was unfaithful, and she became the parent of two more children in her forties.

Our father, fared better, at least on the outside. He fell in love with a tall, attractive OR nurse (he was a surgeon), and began the jet set life he had never embraced with our petite, down-to-earth mother.

Right away, however, there were fireworks between our father’s girlfriend and his oldest daughters. Once engaged, however, she vowed that she would never let any of us come between them.

These plans were foiled when our own mother began drinking, and the youngest four children moved into my father’s condo, making him a full-time parent instead of an occasional weekend one.  Soon after his wedding, a mansion was built by the bay, and our younger siblings were swallowed up into a new life without the rest of us.

With the family fabric further frayed, I took on the crusade of knitting us back together with great odds–two different households, myself off at school, and the second-in-charge, married, and expecting her own child after two weeks at college.

I did not grasp the concept of “Alpha Female”at the time, but my stepmother meant to keep us apart:

We were to knock before entering “her” home.

We were not to arrive there with friends, uninvited.

We were not included in special family celebrations–our father’s birthday for instance.

We were no longer asked along on family vacations.

There was no room set aside for us in the new house, not a bed, or any form of welcome, not even a photo on the wall.

And we no longer enjoyed free reign over our youngest siblings who we had practically raised, and who had suddenly become exclusively hers. We would need to make an appointment to “have” them for an outing, scheduled well in advance, subject to gross delays and sudden, heart-breaking, cancellations.

Finally, she made it clear that she saw no need for our younger sisters to spend time with what she dismissed as their “half” siblings; and she dismissed all of our efforts to spend time together.

A decade of anguish ensued as I watched everything I knew and loved slip from my hands. My mother, hardly able to hold together the new life she had created, was reluctant to insist on visitation; and in her self-pity preferred to let her daughters enjoy their new, “richer,” lives in coordinating Gap outfits and matching pigtails.

For my father’s part, it seemed to pain him to recall his life with us.  In some corrupted way, we were held accountable for our mother’s shameless relationship with a younger man, and for the new half-siblings we adored, but were supposed to eschew.

He would often explain that we represented the children his new wife would never have with him, and thus our very existence was a source of anguish and pain.

Occasionally, the man who was once our father lavished fatherly affection on us for a single bright moment; but it was always followed by an awkwardness, as if he was embarrassed to love us in the presence of his wife–as if we were his ex-es instead of his daughters.

Once I was married myself, my stepmother refused to accept that I maintained my family name. Maybe she didn’t want to share it with me. I always thought it would have made more sense for my father to have shared hers. He had so little to do with us after the divorce–always following her lead and enjoying life’s special occasions with her family and friends.

To his credit, he did try to include us now and then. “Why don’t you join us,” he’d say, off-handedly, as if he remembered that we had once been connected. Frequently this invitation would be silently rebuked by our stepmother, and we could tell we shouldn’t accept although we felt unable to say why for fear of further alienated ourselves.  Other times, she would be openly rescind the invitation;  and on some occasions, we’d arrive on time, to find that we had been left behind or forgotten altogether.

For years, it was impossible to reach the man who had been our father. Letters or presents sent were never received, and he was rarely available to come to the phone. She would answer and we could never quite figure how to circumvent her. He was busy. They had important, prestigious lives. We were a distraction, an annoyance, a bother. What did we want?

It’s pathetic to admit, but during those years we formed an underground hotline on the man who had been our father. If one of us were to discover him alone, either by phone or in person, we would notify the others immediately, so that they too could grasp at his attention.

“Hey, she’s at the mall for the day,” we’d whisper to each other on the phone, or “She’s at the gym for the morning.” or “Dad’s here at the office, alone!”

A protective layer of scar tissue has formed since this god-awful time two decades ago, but I still feel the pain of my parents divorce and the loss of our family.

It’s as if we were once held in a beautiful blanket, with each parent holding two corners, only to be carelessly dropped. There has been healing for me–for all of us–for sure, but our bottoms are still sore from that fall

We’ve each woven new blankets, my siblings and I–with each other, as we gathered around our mother as she died, and within our own families, who themselves have suffered some of the ravages of infidelity and separation.

As adults, I think we each hold onto a little too tightly to our corners of love and responsibility, not wanting our children or lives to plummet to the ground like we did so long ago.

At forty years old, I’m ready to give it all up–all this tight holding. But I am afraid. If I let go, will we have ever existed?

Kelly Salasin, 2004


Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Lanscape of Loss


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