Freedom to Grieve

Protecting grief from "closure," consumerism, politics, and other cultural distortions

When Grief and Love are Unspoken

A tribute to our son.

Twelve years ago, on February 1, our son died.

The next day, February 2,  he was born, still.

I know.  It is backwards. There is nothing right about a child dying. Words often fail to capture our emotions. Either we cannot speak or there are no words. As a loving tribute to Zachariah, I share this poem.


Twelve Years Unspoken

Entering my favorite flower shop,
Passing by teddy bears and blankets,
I close my eyes, a prayer unspoken.

“Three yellow roses and baby’s breath, please.”
She says, “We have no baby’s breath.”

 Appropriate, I suppose, since neither did he.

She offers other “little white flowers.”
But it is baby’s breath I long to see.

 “Then just the roses.”

 Reading my credit card, she pauses,
“Oh, I didn’t recognize you.”
“It’s OK,” I say.

The reason I was there
Hung in the air,

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 “How have you been?”
She quietly asks.

 I whisper through tears,
“It’s a hard day.”
Twelve years, unspoken
My voice gives way.

She shares, “I’m sorry.”
Tenderly wrapping each rose,
“Hang in there,” she says softly.
It helps that she knows.

I nod,

I walk away.
In my empty arms rest
The yellow roses
With no baby’s breath.

My heart, broken,
Holding love, unspoken.



Nancy Berns

February 1, 2013


Nancy Berns, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University and the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.


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