The Language Of Loss


What has loss in common with the scent of roses and the gladsome song of birds? I’m not sure, but there is a connection somewhere. At the moment the connection eludes me because I am thinking of people who, this spring, have left this life. There has been a recent death in my extended family; friends have lost their dear ones; and the writing community has said farewell a woman whose humor and kindness will sorely be missed. So I am not thinking of flowers and birdsong but of the Language Of Loss.

Oh, yes, there is such a language.  I know that as we grow older it is inevitable that we lose some of the people we value and love, but each time this happens I fling questions into the void. Why her? I have cried. Did it have to be him? And the ache within, the one that began with the first great loss and which never has really healed, throbs anew.

Then the questions come. The words of the Language Of Loss  are universal, common to everyone in every country and in every walk of life. I wish I had… I could have … if only… why didn’t I? Those insidious words echo in the still hours of the night or slide into busy daylight thoughts. I have listened to them so often and know that tears have no power over them, for they remind me that now there is no going back, no redress for things undone or words unsaid.

        If only I wrote

       One last time… busy over


The questions are most strident when the death is unexpected. Accident or suicide robs us of our last bits of armor—a disease to hate or the expected end of a long life—something feared yet half expected. With sudden death come an outpouring of questions for which there is no hope for an answers. Why? Mourns the heart. What could I have done? Why did this happen? And the plaintive questions go on.

Sorrow at the loss

            At questions never answered…

            Flowers felled by frost.

The Language Of Loss comes to us all, but somewhere it begins to change. Whether in a month, a year or tens of years, the mournful questions slowly fade and gentler, happier ones take their place. Do you remember? We ask each other, and we smile or laugh out loud at memories that are filled with the sunshine of past times. Remember that time when… remember what she said… and, oh, how proud he was that day? And then the sun grows bright again, the birds sing as they have always done, and we can be glad of the roses blooming in our garden.

            Memory can bring

            Laughter and healing tears…

            Rainbows after rain.

This healing language is also born from loss, but instead of burdening with gloom they fill us with hope and the memory of love that strengthens and enriches. We become free to celebrate the lives we have lost. And, still carrying the scars of great sadness, we turn to the life force that carries us forward. Perhaps we remember the words of Andre Gide:  For love is eternal and man is immortal, and death is a horizon… and a horizon is only a line beyond which we cannot see.




About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

11 responses »

  1. Thank you for reading, Carol… I think loss’s language is something that every one of us has heard and spoken. So sad about Blonnie and about all the losses both personal and in our writing community,.

  2. Maureeen,
    What a fabulous and profound post. I especially like thinking of memories as the key to healing. Your haikus show the grieving process in a beautiful way. This is a great tribute to those we love who have died. Thank you very much.

  3. And thank you for always reading, Linda, and for your insightful and positive comments. I was really going to write another post… but this one kept nagging at me, so I wrote it. We all have gone through this period of grieving for those we have loved… and eventually, I have found, my memories become only good and happy ones.

  4. Thank you Maureen for putting into words, thoughts that are not as easy for me to express. It seems in our later years the cards I have to send the most are condolence cards. Luckily we also have had some new babies joining the wider family so life continues!

  5. True! and grandchildren who are growing up, and friends, and happy events. Sometimes it’s hard to think of happy things in the midst of sadness, but somehow we manage, don’t we? Otherwise the world wouldn’t go on turning….

  6. Maureen, This tender and sensitive post was just what I needed to read today. May 1 was the first anniversary of the loss of a very dear friend–my college roomate whom I had known for forty years. A year gives persective and healing, but nevertheless, this anniversary brings a fresh wave of grief, both for myself and for her family and our friends. I love that quote by Andre Gide, too.

  7. Thank you for your words, Christine. The loss of a friend is terrible… and there is no real word for the friend who is left behind. Those who lose husbands or wives are ‘widows’ or ‘widowers.’Children without parents are ‘orphans.’ For friends, though, there is no nomenclature, no designation except that which is written in our hearts. I have lost dear, dear friends, too, and the scars– after twenty years– still ache. My deepest sympathy for your great loss.

  8. Maureen, You’re right. Thanks for reminding me that much of what we go through when a friend crosses that horizon line, is universal. I find comfort in that. I think the term for someone who’s lost a friend, remains “friend.” And I find comfort in that, too.

  9. A wise woman once told me that friendship is the purest of all connections. To lose that connection to death is terribly hard, and even now after a score of years, I feel the ache. To counteract the ache are memories. You are right, of course, friends will always and forever remain friends.

  10. ’tis better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all, saith Tennyson.
    Hugs, Maureen. What gives me hope? In paradisium!
    God bless.

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