Category Archives: grieving

Restoration of Exuberance

Peony in Sun--Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2006

Peony in Sun–Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2006

I have come out of a very dark time. One of those rough patches that comes along now and then. Not every minute, but pervasive and often, requiring lots of extra support to get through the days. Totally justified. In one year I lost five people close to me including my Mom and youngest brother. My youngest sister was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. The year before both of my husband’s parents passed away. Left us with the breath knocked out, in a way. I ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure two weeks after Mom’s death and a long road back to health. Grieving was a major factor I was sure. And this year around Mother’s Day I woke with my heart in a funny rhythm and again in the hospital before it righted itself. Not as bad as last year, but still…

As it approached the anniversary of my mother’s death, I could feel the extra sadness coming toward me like a damp cold. And I felt in some way, if I could only get past that mark, I would be on the road to feeling better. But the grief was so deep and dark. So much writing (which will be helpful later, but put aside for now).

And then a post on Facebook by Elizabeth Gilbert (most well-known as the author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed) and who gave an awesome TED talk on creativity. She talked about a sudden revelation. She had been waking in the night in fear of divorce, yet there were no problems in her current marriage. The fear was based on the past. And she realized that the past was past. She had been divorced and it was awful and she recovered and did not have to worry about it now. It was past.

And you know when you read something and it is exactly the right thing, as if someone was looking over your shoulder and watching out for you? Well, it was one of those things, exactly right. And just like that, I realized that my mother was gone, I did not have to wake up worrying if this would be the day. And my brother was gone after years of illness and I did not have to wonder if I would get the call. It was over.

And this is the poem. (You knew it was coming…) Thank you to my amazing support team!


Almost 1 Year Later
(July 14 anniversary)

Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert

Mom is dead,
she cannot die again,
the worst has happened,

in the past.
Not awaken every day
wondering if this is the day.

Release anxiety
like fluff in the air
from ripe dandelions,

like habits acquired
from practice or experience,
embedded in nerve nets

so deep-buried, impossible
to return to naiveté…
until this one day

when one person may say:
it is in the past.
It cannot repeat. Release.

And like that,
one finger snap,
it is.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

Elizabeth Gilbert has a new book coming out in 13 days, a novel called The Signature of All Things. Looking forward to it. Thank you Thank you!

Virtual Choir 4: Bliss

Mission Bay, CA

Mission Bay, CA                                                                                                             Copyright 2013 MDMikus

I am greatly interested in the way creativity prompts and inspires further creative expression. I think we need more of that. Virtual Choir 3 and 4 (and Eric Whitacre, of course) inspired many poems for me. See links below for previous VC related posts.

In the last year I have lost five people in my immediate circle, including my Mom, whom I was very close to, and my youngest brother. In addition, my dear youngest sister is struggling with stage 4 breast cancer. (Now all four of us girls in my family have had cancer.) The year before both my in-laws died. So I am deeply grieving, trying to work through and process and let go and remember and listen to my inner voice and still take care of my health. For me, singing in VC 4: Bliss was filled with challenges and also huge gifts.

I was driving and began thinking about the many reasons I felt so compelled to sing in Virtual Choir 4 and the phrase “5 minute respite” came to mind. Since I am a poet I have a notebook in the car. I pulled over and followed that thought. The poem below is the result. (5 minutes refers to the approximate time it takes to sing the choir part of VC 4: Bliss once through.)


5 Minute Respite
(VC 4: Bliss)

To sing perchance to dream
when anything is possible
where irretrievable losses
can be restored and
hope refreshed

Melding what is best in each
welding strength to strength
assembled from
determined persistence
to overcome any barriers

Envisioned by the one
encouraged by the team
the whole more
strongly beautiful and real
than any sticky web

of pervasive grief.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

Note: Definition of respite (pronounced ‘respit) in the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary: 1) a period of temporary delay, 2) an interval of rest or relief.

Other Virtual Choir (and Eric Whitacre) posts and poems:

More VC poems to come. What has inspired you lately? What did you do about it?

True Cost of Guns

In looking through my poems from a few years ago, I found this one. Timely. What do you think?


Pure Economics

How casually we sell guns
as if they were
eggs for breakfast,
a pen to write with,
a book yet unread.

Without understanding
the purpose behind action,
the price of inaction,
the graves yet undug.

From manufacture to distribution
to sales, follow the cost,
the opportunities lost,
for each one of us

and charge accordingly.
How few could then
afford to pay
what was asked?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2008

Good-bye, Jean McGrew

Petunia (C) 2012 Margaret Dubay Mikus

I met Jean McGrew in 1998. She was 14 years older and a retired kindergarten teacher. Some years before, she’d had a liver transplant (following hepatitis C). Jean wrote poems to her new life-saving liver, “Oliver,” among other things. We connected right away, in part because we both were poets writing about healing, in part because we were each on a spiritual quest and liked to laugh.

Several times a year we would meet for lunch at Hackney’s in Lake Zurich, IL and catch up. For the last few years, we were in contact more by email. She was always wonderfully upbeat and optimistic. I attended one of her extraordinary “Healing Basket” presentations where she used props from a basket to accompany her stories and poems. Lovely and moving. I encouraged her to get her inspiring poems out into the world where they could help others. She ultimately self-published four poetry chapbooks. She enthusiastically read my work and encouraged me to keep writing, not to get discouraged and give up. Really, we were mutual mentors.

Though our life stories were different in many ways, we were also kindred spirits. I wrote two poems for her when we first met. She was surprised by how different it felt to have someone write for her for a change.

In August, just a month after my Mom’s death, I got a call from Marcia, Jean’s daughter, with the news about Jean’s peaceful passing. (Thank you for the call, Marcia!) Here is a recent poem I wrote about Jean. It refers to Monet’s bridge at Giverny, France, which Jean used as a healing symbol during chemotherapy, eventually having her picture taken on that very bridge after recovery. I will deeply miss her.


Jean McGrew Crosses the Bridge

(Call from her daughter, Marcia)

So I did hear after all
when Jean heard the call
and left this life

as she lived it,
on her own terms,
with spunk and clarity,

family gathered round
for the last peaceful breath,
comforted by their mutual faith.

I miss her encouragement,
optimism, healing words, determination,
contagious inspiration, poetry, good humor,

writing to her heart or liver,
envisioning Monet’s bridge at Giverny
to cross over the ocean back to health,

her talks at the library, wellness, and senior centers
complete with healing basket of props,
poems, stories, heartfelt collections,

compassion, support, persistence,
lunches at Hackney’s in Lake Zurich.
Miss you, rare kindred spirit!

Inevitable I reach an age
where my mothers are gone
and gone and gone and

I am left
on my own.

“We are always close
in heart and spirit,”
she last wrote to me.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

Good Grieving

Peony, June (C) 2008 Margaret Dubay Mikus

There are many things I am grateful for in all this and I try to remember the love that surrounds me. I have a lot of support and many healing skills, but I am just barely coping. Each day I try to sleep and eat and take care of myself, but I feel like a huge weight has crushed me flat, like one of those old cartoon characters that is steamrollered into a paper-thin version of himself. I know from experience that this is part of the grieving process and it will get better over time. Every day I keep on.

As I was slowly trudging to an appointment with my holistic doc earlier this week, some words came into my head: “I feel I weigh six hundred pounds, with shoulders bowed and feet of lead….and walk through mud.” And I thought: that is exactly how I feel. Oh wait, I wrote that…years ago. It is one of two poems in my book, As Easy as Breathing, that I think of as “the good grieving poems.” I wrote these at another time when life knocked me flat. And writing saved and healed me.

First I want to share a short recent poem. For the last month, as she declined, Mom and I could no longer have our weekly phone conversations. I felt her presence nevertheless. These insistent lines came out of that space between dream and waking My Mother’s Daughter) that I complied for Mom’s wake, to share with family and friends as my contribution in celebration of her life and our connection.

She is quiet
she is still
she is peaceful

she is getting ready
to walk the long tunnel
ever grace-filled.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

Below are the two “good grieving poems” from my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation—Poems, Letters, and Inner Listening

Back to the Living

I feel a dreadful sadness
of losses overwhelming,
one on top of the other,
no chance for breathing
in between. No re-balancing

as waves hit from the blue,
knocking the breath out
and feet out from under.
For a time water comes into
lungs…and there is a peace in this,

but no life. For a time
floating numb. Then salt
mixes with salt and body
begins to right and cough
and sputter back to the living.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1996

Who Can Shine Such Light

I feel I weigh six hundred
pounds, with shoulders bowed
and feet of lead.

I see through salt water
and walk through mud.

The mud that clings I fear
will never wash away
by no matter how many tears.

Even so…there is a wisp of smoke
that may vanish, whispering, “feel this
too…fully…and then see

the other side.
Release what must be
to heal from wounds old and new.
The lightness that will come

from this unloading
will be miraculous.
People will be drawn to this one
who can shine such light on darkness.”

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1996