Book Recommendation: Unobservable: Poems of Grief and Grace, by Siobhan Westrop

Book Recommendation: Unobservable: Poems of Grief and Grace, by Siobhan Westrop

In October 2019 Ted and I flew to join Siobhan. We desired to support her in her grief. We walked the beaches together. Four months earlier, her eldest son, Saren, who was 22 years old died in a freak accident in the mountains, doing what he loved.

Little did we know.

Three months later, our youngest son, 30 years old, was killed by a bullet. A freak accident, while hunting with friends, doing what he loved.  This time she flew to support me in my grief. Geordie.

Little did we know.

Then, less than two months later, the pandemic sent us into isolation. In the isolation of the pandemic, she wrote. Today, her poetry is published. Unobservable: Poems of Grief and Grace. Inside the cover: Dedicated to Saren.

I flip open the book, and I see my name. She wrote about us. She wrote about learning to speak “his” name. She wrote this for me.

For Kath
your eyes found mine found yours
with forced glance to see the unthinkable
arms legs knees hands bodies crumbled
shook the ground weeping over
and under the lead weight of unbearable
a meeting
in our motherhood
train wreck loud
your tears drowned mine drowned yours ours
bound for unstoppable
as snowdrops push bravely
through the damp black
of January
you made room
wide and unimaged you spoke their names
You invited me in.

Siobhan Westrop

Writing can be a healing way to adapt to our losses, to grieve.

Poetry can communicate with power what cannot be expressed in narrative writing.

This book of poetry follows some of Siobhan’s journey, but it speaks to me of my journey. Can you relate?

Over the past few years, I participated in an online support group for parents who had experienced the death of an adult child. One of the themes that was often spoken of was the difficulty when people did not understand the pain of the person who was grieving. The wisdom that was shared by the parents was something like, “how nice that they have not experienced the death of a child, and therefore, do not understand”.

In this next poem, Siobhan writes of the time in her life, and the time in others’ lives, when the heart is “intact” and when understanding is not there.

I used to walk through cemeteries
as if it were nothing–
nothing significant,
as if it were only a serene place–
somewhere to sit
and hear golden leaves fall, sun on my face.
I don’t have to hate the person I used to be
in order to pity the human
I have become,
though I would go back
in an instant. Immediately. God.
Godly. Create again.
Come again, let me be.
I ache
for that careless woman
passing by–
heart intact, let her be.

Siobhan Westrop

On finding a poem that might fit for you

A while ago, I received a message from my dear friend, Antoinette Oberg, a writer, educator, researcher, and person with great heart. She describes picking up a book of poetry, she writes, “and, without reading a table of contents, I open to exactly the poem that is most meaningful to me, and that I know I am intended to read.”

I wonder if you might find the poem that is most meaningful to you.

And if poetry does not speak to you… next month I am going to share one of my favourites, delightful, easy reads, full of wisdom, insights, love and joy.



Connect with Siobhan at siobhanwestrop.poetry on Instagram

4 Responses

  1. I too have read Siobhan’s poems and to any who have not had the chance I hope you do. For me I found gratitude for the words she penned that spoke the truths I felt and feel in my journey with grief.

    Another poem in her book that speaks to me is about counting the days since that “first day” and yet reliving “day one” over and over again. I could not number the times I have relived that phone call informing me that my brother had died suddenly in an accident… I relive that moment and the hours that followed.

    I love how within her poetry there is both the reality and pain of grief and the hope and peace too.

    I have the privilege of knowing and feeling close to both Saren and Geordie and give such great thanks for the legacy they left behind and for the growth that has come. I miss them and would STILL prefer they be here than have the experience and know all that I have learned…I have not matured to the point where I can say “I am happy to have learned , and it’s ok that they died” Perhaps one day I will.

    For now I continue forward with gratitude for the people and words that have given me hope, peace, a place to cry to laugh and to talk.

    I give thanks that I have family and friends like Siobhan to walk this path of life and grief.

    Thanks for sharing this book recommendation. It truly is a treasure and an act of courage for ever being written and shared with the world.

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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