Oh For Goodness Sake – Stand At My Grave and Weep Already!

Death has been visiting my life a lot in this past year. During those times, I have frequently heard Mary Elizabeth Frye’s well-known poem, “Do No Stand At My Grave and Weep.”

This morning as I was lolling abed, I began naming my departed-beloveds in my mind, calling their sweet faces to mind and silently speaking their names one by one. This is one of the ways I honor them and deal with their absence. In the midst of that familiar ritual, I “heard” a distinct voice speaking into my mind. This is what it said.

Now, Honey. You just go ahead and stand at my grave and weep. As a matter of fact, you could fall to the ground if you wanted to. If there’s snow or mud, no matter — you can always get that funeral suit cleaned later on.

Or you could forego the suit altogether. Wear your pajamas or your favorite sweats to my funeral. You’re hurting enough all ready without having to wear tight clothes and uncomfortable shoes.

And please, please…weep! It’s bizarre to be where I am now — in this lovely though totally indescribable place – and see you expending such precious energy on NOT weeping, NOT breathing, NOT living this experience. Sweetheart, you are still alive. So be…alive!

 We don’t get to weep here. We don’t get dirty. Our hearts don’t shatter. That only happens where you are. To be honest, I miss the mess of living. It’s a privilege. So go ahead and weep, wail, rant, gnash your teeth, carry on a bit. There will be plenty of time for silence and stillness when you’re where I am.

And when you are finished with crying – or when you pause for awhile – go ahead and sing. Singing reaches right across the divide between where I am and where you are and brings us together in an instant. You’ve felt that, haven’t you? You’ll know the song to sing, but not until you take the breath to begin it. That moment will allow me to plop one right into your heart and out it will come. Be warned it will likely make you cry again. I think I’ve made myself clear about what to do when that happens.

Now here’s another thing. This one is for much, much later — after your suit is back from the cleaners, the casserole dishes have been returned, and the rest of the world has moved on from your cataclysmic loss. Begin to find some life around and beyond your grief and gently, gingerly start to live into it. Sadness and loss will still be around because frankly, you won’t ever “get over it.” You’re not supposed to. 

I don’t know how you will find your way back to living your life beyond grief, but I hear rumors over here that being out under the sky is good start. Connecting with other living things is good as well – plants in the garden, friendly dogs, old friends who don’t bring creased brows and “concern” to every encounter.

So – go ahead – stand at my grave. Cry your damn eyes out. Ride the storm of grief bravely and it just may carry you – in time, Dear One, in time – back to the amazing place of being alive.

I’ll be cheering you on from here.

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About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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29 Responses to Oh For Goodness Sake – Stand At My Grave and Weep Already!

  1. Ann Manning says:

    Beautiful!!! SO looking forward to Mexico – I leave MONDAY – yea. See you there.. love A Ann Manning

    Women’s Congress for Future Generations & Future First MN ann@anncmanning.com 612-802-8513 http://www.futurefirst.us

    >

  2. Linda Mills says:

    Yes indeed! Many thanks for sharing this, Barbara!

  3. Sheryl says:

    This is so beautiful! So divinely inspired! Thank you!!

  4. As a celebrant I am often asked to read Mary Frye’s poem as it brings comfort to those on a grief journey. The words you present in this blog resonate with me to my core and I will no longer hear the words of this poem in quite the same way. If at all possible, I would love to include your thoughts(are they copyright protected?)min a future edition of a long term care home newsletter I submit to and/or in my journey with people I help transition from death, to grief, to living in a new way. Thanks again, Michelle H.

    • Hello Michelle, Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment — and for the fine work you do as a celebrant as well. You have my permission to share the piece in your newsletter. Thanks for asking. Please include my name and website (www.barbaramcafee.com) so people can find me. Blessings!

  5. Sally Ann Parrish says:

    Thank you. Telling me not to grieve for my soul mate, my best friend, my lover, my very special husband of 45 years is like telling me not to breathe! I love you, Donald, and the tears just come!

  6. christina46 says:

    Yeah Barabara–joining you in my jammies and tears. Thanks for this thought.

  7. Sandi says:

    Thank you for your kind wisdom. I took it in deeply after much loss in my life this year. Thank you for the permission…

  8. Dan McCarron says:

    Loved it and so true. One’s grief truly never totally departs, but life and joy can return if one stands in the sunshine and surrounds themselves with uplifting loved ones. If none abound go find some..

  9. Pingback: Links of the dead {February 2016} | Unquiet Things

  10. Mike Combs says:

    Dear Ms. McAfee, I read this and cried. From sad tears and then to tears of happy. Amazing how words affect us. Thank you.

  11. Claudia says:

    I love this ❤ It is nice to know that tears and pain are too part of the feelings of a human being.
    (Do you happen to have a Spanish version of this beautiful blog?)

  12. habarlow says:

    Reblogged this on LazyShmazy and commented:
    A friend recently lost a loved one and this song was sung (“Don’t Sit at My Grave and Weep”). It was beautiful, but I was uneasy with it. This lovely blog post articulated what I was having difficulty putting into words.

  13. Annie says:

    So lovely. I lost my husband in 2007, My Mum, 2 years later, then Dad, then my sister 2 years ago. I am 52. Grief is a lonely place.

    Thankyou for writing such a lovely poem, about a subject often avoided.

    • Oh, Annie…you have gone through a great deal! How I wish we knew better how to hold people as they grieve….May you find your way through the loneliness. So many of us carry grief but don’t have a place to share and metabolize our experience together. Blessings….

  14. Reblogged this on Singing You Home and commented:
    Barbara McAfee writes about moving beyond our tidy grief and allowing the full body experience of tears and wails and aching and sorrow be expressed.
    This is well worth reflection.
    Barbara is a mentor of mine if vocal expression and in the founding of a Comfort Choir in Minnesota called “Morning Star Singers”.

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