When Grieving

drink water
let ocean in
tears roll
erase beach
unground you

be periwinkle live
between tides
inside your shell
feel around
with your feet

for something
to latch on to
shelter in place
pull a seaweed blanket
over your head

cleave to crevices
in rocks and boulders
lean hard
cling strong
be held

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Barbara DeCoursey Roy is a licensed clinical professional counselor. “I live in the woods near St. Louis, MO, where I write poetry and practice being old. As a caregiver for the past five years, I have been intimately involved in navigating various healthcare systems. I have shared my poems with my husband’s oncology team as a token of appreciation for their presence to us. Poetry helps me give form to what can’t be expressed in a routine office visit.”

About the Poem

“The poem is my attempt to embody grief, to show how the grieving body is mirrored in the landscape. The periwinkle’s foot is the main part of its body that can be seen outside of the shell. It helps the periwinkle (sea snail) hold tight to the rocks when the waves are crashing in on it. Periwinkles cannot swim, but they can breathe under water. I hope the poem gives the reader permission to recognize the need to withdraw from the world when overcome with grief, as well as the need to find something or someone sturdy to lean on.”


13 thoughts on “When Grieving”

  1. Louis Verardo, MD

    Your explanation “About the Poem” provided me with some additional information about the sea snail, which in turn further enhanced my understanding of the piece.
    I don’t think I’ve read a more perfect description of the grieving process; thank you for writing it.

    1. Barbara DeCoursey Roy

      Thank you Louis for sharing your reaction. The sea snail is so small, but is not helpless. I am so glad my poem touched you.

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Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"