Giving voice to grief

Upon hearing that Saul and Jonathan had died, David lamented:

Alas, the glory of Israel, Saul, slain upon your heights; how can the warriors have fallen! Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished….how can the warriors have fallen…I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother…. (2 Samuel 1:19-27)

Reading David’s words, hearing the grief pouring out of him, reminds me of the importance of giving voice to our sorrows.

But after my friend Jim died, I could hardly put two words together, let alone compose a lament as David had done. Then, one day a few months after Jim’s death, a voice on my car radio sang the words that released the floodgates of my grief:

Oh I swear to you

I’ll be there for you

This is not a drive by

(Train, “Oh I swear to you”)

A drive by—that is what it felt like. Where I had thought Jim would be around forever (or, at least another twenty years), that was not to be. He was gone—no longer there for me—and all the swearing in the world would not change that. It did not matter what either of us might have wanted, I was left to deal with the reality that he was no longer with me.

I pulled over to the side of the road and sobbed.

Those three little lines tapped into my grief and expressed a sense of betrayal I did not even know I was feeling.hope-grief-cancerEvery time I hear this song, I still sing along on the refrain, my voice loud and full of emotion. It still feels like a drive by and this refrain helps me to give voice to my grief.

In 1984, my friend Gerry was diagnosed with leukemia; without a bone marrow transplant, he knew his death was imminent. He chose two songs to be played at his funeral, and although thirty-one years have passed since his death, I still think of him whenever I hear these songs:

 Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow.
But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on….

(Bill Withers, “Lean on Me”)


What did you think I would do at this moment
when you’re standing before me with tears in your eyes
I’d fall down on my knees
Kiss the ground that you walk on
If I could just hold you again….

(Billy Vera & The Beaters, “At This Moment”)hope-grief-cancerDavid’s lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan seems raw and immediate, but perhaps he took some time to process his grief before he wrote.

Giving expression to our sorrows can open us to a different perspective; sadness can sit side-by-side with gratitude and hope.hope-grief-cancer






6 thoughts on “Giving voice to grief

  1. dslyon

    Giving voice to grief…just saying or reading those words gives permission to dig deep and extract the bitterness…thus, the healing takes root. Thank you, again, Madeline.

  2. Ann

    Oh my how this opened the flood gates today….I lost my best guy friend of 45 years this past August….I always used to say to him – don’t you die before me and he’d laugh and say oh but it’s ok for you to go before me… it’s been 6 months and I cry every night especially driving home at midnight from work knowing I can’t call him…we spoke every night

  3. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I am sorry for your loss. This friendship sounds like it was a great gift to you, and I hope your memories console you. I had to laugh at your “don’t you die before me” comment as that is also something I have said.

  4. Maria Strauman

    Hi Madeline, Fran was a lifelong, diehard Eagles fan and I’ve been missing him more these last few weeks, knowing how excited he would be. And yes, missing him more causes me to be sad, but as you said, also grateful for all we were able to share in the past.

  5. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I think, Maria, that these kinds of events (the Eagles in the Super Bowl) heighten our awareness of loss. My friend Ted used to hold phenomenal Super Bowl parties when he lived in PA, and I was thinking of him today, too, and how happy he would be to see the Eagles in the game. Sweet memories.


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