When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer we started a Caring Bridge site that we used to keep people updated on Debbie’s condition. After receiving compliments on the site I decided that I would like to try to write more. So when Alicia asked me what I wanted for Christmas I mentioned a writing class. She got me a gift certificate which I used for a class. Unfortunately as I took the class Debbie took a turn for the worse and passed away.
I took another class about getting into the writing habit. I wanted to keep writing but sometimes my grief left me without the energy to spend time on anything. However, I wanted to get into the habit of committing to writing and actually doing something. So I started writing haikus. They seemed like something I could write and actually accomplish something without putting in a long time.
Haikus are a Japanese form of poetry. A haiku consists of three lines. The first and last lines are five syllables each and the middle line is seven for a total of seventeen syllables. It seemed like something where I could write one poem in sitting without taxing myself.
Starting haiku was hard at first. I later wrote the haiku below about that feeling.
The Haikuist’s Lament
How can I express my fee-
It’s not nearly e-
As I worked with the form I realized it was helping me to focus my thoughts. You can’t have anything extraneous; there’s just no room in the poem. It helped me to get my thoughts and emotions on paper. It allowed me to express my grief and deal with my memories.
Some of my earlier poems were titled. It was a way to sneak in some extra syllables. After all, “Celebration of Life Service” would take up most of the poem leaving me with no room to say anything about it. Eventually I stopped titling the poems, it felt a little like cheating to get the extra syllables. As I kept working with haikus I found the answer to the Haikuist’s Lament.
You may find out that
Seventeen pieces of words
Can say a whole lot
Several months after I started I was reading a book of haikus. I read that haiku poems have a season word in them. My poems also had seasons. But not the annual seasons of nature, rather they were the seasons of illness and death. I arranged them into four seasons with an introductory haiku for each. The Season of Before is our life together before Debbie’s cancer. The Season of Cancer tells of the time Debbie’s symptoms started to appear until she died. The Season of Mourning is the story of my grief journey. The Season of After is me envisioning my future. I'll be posting each season on the blog at a later date.
Every grief journey is different, but being able to express grief in some way is important. Being able to write things down was an important part of my journey which still continues.
11/23/2016 10:51:33 am
Phew. I don't know how I missed the haiku works, Tim. This lament captures the challenge and the great gift of this poetic form. And to read through the whole journey with Debbie in Haiku was so moving and profound for me. Keep writing, little brother!!
7/17/2021 09:45:05 pm
Yes, our lives have seasons. The season of our youth, the season of family / raising children; season of our careers, the season of our golden years.
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