It’s a shame that it has become a bit of a cliché (courtesy of a certain film) because I think W H Auden’s poem Funeral Blues so brilliantly captures the anger and bewilderment one feels in the first few days, weeks, and months of bereavement. I doubt anyone actually uses this poem in funerals: it’s far too pessimistic. It is pain and sorrow unadulterated and completely unabashed – its raw emotion is put out there with no pretence of hope. And that is how grief feels, for a time.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can come to any good
- W H Auden, ‘Funeral Blues’
Fury that the world keeps spinning. Amazement that friends and acquaintances continue living their lives: going to restaurants and parties and holidays. Bewilderment that you still exist, and that you are expected to have some kind of life. And complete, utter, devastating hopelessness.
This is terrible. Death is terrible.
But this feeling does not last forever. Because in time, little by little, you find that you can start to take interest in things again. You might spend a while sitting at the window, watching birds fly around outside, or notice a flower in the garden you hadn’t been aware of before. You will consciously recognise that you are finding this interesting; you are enjoying this moment.
Your pain starts to feel a little less like pain and a little more like love. Your desperate yearning dissipates, as you start to sense and feel your loved one around you again. Maybe the robin that keeps visiting your garden seems to be them looking out for you. Maybe you’ve started carrying around their old lighter, or phone. Maybe you hear them in your head, a comforting running commentary on your life. Or maybe you simply begin to remember with amusement and love rather than sorrow and pain.
This does happen.
You can’t skip the pain, the fury, the amazement, the confusion. The desperation and the hopelessness. But you will survive it and endure it and come through it, and though life will never be the same again life will be better than it is now.
The Cooking – Dumplings
Sundays are for eating well; cooking dishes that require a little more time and effort in the kitchen than can ordinarily be mustered on weekday evenings. In all truthfulness my mum, not I, undertakes this Sunday cooking; I simply look forward to the weekly treat.
This week: beef stew. And we decided to add a bit of extravagance with homemade dumplings. My mum and I rub alongside each other very easily and I love living at home at the moment, but this is not so in the kitchen! Generally, mum is banned from my food blogging adventures and I leave her to it when she’s doing her thing, but for this we made an exception and joined forces. A good thing then that dumplings are so quick and easy to make!
It’s just a matter of making some doughballs, but with ‘suet’ – an ingredient I had never heard of before. Apparently suet is raw animal fat, and it comes out the pack looking like little pellets. Mix the suet, flour, salt and water together, make up your doughballs, then cook them in your stew for around 20 mins.
I really enjoyed the doughy addition to our hearty meal. Soft and gooey on the underside, soaked in beef juices, and slightly crunchy on top. A great textural addition to any stew, and super easy to do!