grief poems

4 Poems for Grieving Hearts This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of immense celebration and excitement for most. The light displays and the decorated windows encourage us to be in good cheer as we bring in the Christmas season. But, for many people, the holidays hurt. They may be a painful reminder of loss and grief. Their hearts may be looking for ways to feel the depth of their pain in a world that seems to have continued on without them. 


Grief is an incredibly personal process that doesn’t stop for the holidays. Whether we are grieving or walking alongside someone who is grieving, may we remember that those feelings are important and that it’s okay to be hurting this holiday. May we hold each other close as we walk through the painful seasons. And, may we look for the glimmers of hope in our daily lives that show that the light will return to us in time. 


John Green 

Bone deep,

that’s where 

the ache lives.

Memories of you

carried inside 

like an old wound, 

never fully healed. 


Grief is heart-shattering and all-consuming, and in time, it settles into a deep ache. It’s still there, and the holidays can bring up so many memories—memories that remind us of that loved one but also of the hurt we feel in their absence. Whether you’re in the early stages of grief or the phase of deep aching, please don’t feel like you have to hide these feelings during the holidays. Confide in a friend or a loved one. Find a support group or a counselor. There are people who can walk alongside you in your grief. You don’t have to bear it alone. 


Emmie McKee 

This is the love

that you couldn’t take with you

It has been left to collect

in the pit of my chest

Too much for one body to keep

or carry alone

It weighs on me

so heavily

that it is given a new name entirely




Feelings of loss are heavy on the broken-hearted, and we often are left to mourn the love that is left behind. The love was beautiful, and it is still beautiful, but it is different now. Take the time you need this holiday to allow yourself to reflect on it. You may need to skip some of the holiday traditions this year that feel too painful, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always need to do that. Be gentle with yourself as you’re learning to navigate your healing. 


Ada Limón

After the Fire 

You ever think you could cry so hard

that there’d be nothing left in you, like

how the wind shakes a tree in a storm

until every part of it is run through with

wind? I live in the low parts now, most

days a little hazy with fever and waiting

for the water to stop shivering out of the 

body. Funny thing about grief, its hold

is so bright and determined like a flame, 

like something almost worth living for. 


I found this piece so deeply moving and poignant. The imagery is a perfect representation of the way grief shakes us to our core, a whole-body experience of loss and transition. But, the last part of this poem reminds us to hold onto hope: the grief sweeps through us with such determination because it is necessary and vital. It hurts and it takes from us, but it also leads us back to the light.


Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out

of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s

almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving

their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate

sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees

that really gets to me. When all the shock of white

and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave

the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,

the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin

growing over whatever winter did to us, a return

to a strange idea of continuous living despite 

the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,

I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf

unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all. 


This poem was the perfect contrast to “After the Fire” because it is a continuation of its imagery and how it relates to grief. The green leaves return, and I especially love the line, “growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.” While many celebrate the holidays, grief comes through like a harsh winter. But, the green leaves and the warmth will return, slowly, as the seasons change in your heart. 


If you are grieving this holiday season, please know that you are seen. Please allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. It’s okay, and it’s necessary. Your feelings during this time are so valid. I hope that these poems can serve as a little glimmer of light in your healing process.