Grief-stricken by the 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd
No! I am no sheep;
My family’s pain fills this room
And I want to roar like a wounded lion.

I shall not want
All our emotional trauma
Feels like a blazing desire for vengeance,
Who can I blame for indignity and suffering?

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
The verdant and lush pastures of Grandma’s farm
No longer feel like home without her or Pa
I stand outraged and want retribution

He leadeth me beside the still waters
I cannot be led; nor calmed by rivers and oceans
I am agitated, anxious and appalled by platitudes.
Stillness speaks volumes, but I cannot rest on the shore.

He restoreth my soul
Empty promise of soul restoration.
Her soul was pure light which shined so bright
And in the end it felt meaningless next to atrophy

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
What is right about a kind Christian woman
Or a loving and playful father being so ill-treated
By a God I can no longer comprehend, nor care to?

For His name’s sake
Debbie, thy namesake is Despair,
As a child I believed so fervently,
Less so in my 20s, and not at all in my 30s.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I can walk easily through life and death
Feeling impervious and armoured in grief.
Shadows and darkness align with my black heart.

I will fear no evil for Thou art with me
Evil exists and I would love a chance to face it head-on,
To crash and collide into evil I can seek out and destroy.
But this is my solo quest – I feel removed from religion and god.

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me
My feelings make me want to take that rod and staff
So you can body-beaten and bruised like my loved ones.
How’s that for comfort? Take that for suffering?

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
I am grief-stricken. Grandma prepared so many loving meals on her farm
And if I must have enemies, then I imagine them to be hypocrites
Who know nothing of empathy and can ignore our anguish.

Thou anointest my head with oil
I feel slippery, but not from an oil-anointing;
I am lost to my liquefied angst and emotional torment.

My cup runneth over
I feel overcome, not abundantly blessed.
My outrage and pain cloud my confused mind.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
I have known goodness and mercy: from people, not religion,
Many of my kindest and best friends are atheists and humanists.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
I will not.

And yet…
Barb’s softly spoken words moved me involuntarily
I knew Grandma would have loved seeing her daughters, grandchildren,
Great-grandchildren, friends and family listening to her favourite verses.
Grief finds strange ways to make us feel.

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Grief-stricken by the 23rd Psalm by 

My beautiful sister Barbara has been tasked on at least two occasions with reading Psalm 23. I’ve heard it many many times, but when I am at an emotionally-charged funeral (such as my Dad’s on 4 November 1997, or my Grandma’s on 18 July 2009), I sometimes find myself with a disassociative thing happening. This poem represents my attempt to meld some of those thoughts which tumble through my grieving mind.

I’ll defer to Anna Quindlen, of The New York Times: “People who are knowledgeable about poetry sometimes discuss it in that knowing, rather hateful way in which oenophiles talk about wine: robust, delicate, muscular. This has nothing to do with how most of us experience it, the heart coming around the corner and unexpectedly running into the mind. Of all the words that have stuck to the ribs of my soul, poetry has been the most filling.”

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  • Arcadia Tempest
    Arcadia Tempestabout 5 years ago

    Ohhhhh my…..I am feeling your grief and my gut has turned over at reading each stanza here….what the fuck does one say….no cliche’s ….I personally hate them…. writing out your feelings in such a provocative way is applauded by me…..I write the guts out of my emotions….I am standing here with you while I can be fully in the moment with your pain…HUGS …mountains of them XX

  • Dearest KarenSue, thanks so much for your empathy. You are never cliched – and I appreciate it and applaud it my lovely friend. Emotions have to come out and on RB I am becoming much better at finding a genuine release or outlet for emotion than I necessarily have in the past. Love the hugs too xoxo Thanks so so much for reading it and your feedback

    – msdebbie

  • CLiPiCs
    CLiPiCsabout 5 years ago


    Love ‘N’ Laughter Kriss

  • Thanks Kriss :) Appreciate anyone who reads it and understands my thinking xoxo

    – msdebbie

  • RaOrEmraeh
    RaOrEmraehabout 5 years ago

    I don’t know what to say really. First, I’m sorry for your recent and past losses. This is really well said and well expressed. xoxo

  • Dearest cassey, thanks so much for your comment. I love that you understand (and I am humbled that you so clearly get my inability to tolerate platitudes and cliches when simple honesty helps so much more!) Bless your sweet heart; gosh I love your spirit!!! Thanks for your friendship xoxoxo

    – msdebbie

  • DanaMS
    DanaMSabout 5 years ago

    Great emotional writing. Sorry for your loss.

  • Thanks so much Dana. The feature feels like such an honour too

    – msdebbie

  • skinnyman
    skinnymanabout 5 years ago

    well msdebbie, intellegent, raw, emotive, strong, honest, open. very very well done you. :))

  • And thanks for your kind kind words :) I always feel so moved by the outpouring of positive vibes on RB. Amazed and appreciative!

    – msdebbie

  • rubyjo
    rubyjoabout 5 years ago

    Debbie- i am not sure i have ever read anything quite so honest and, quite frankly, courageous. To reply to those verses with your rawest emotions, write them down, then post them for the world to see- i applaud you. A solo quest? yes, to an extent but not completely…i want to hold your hand and hug your sorrow and frustrations away, if it would help. what a beautiful soul you are.

  • Oh gosh rubyjo, that means so so much to me. You are such a wonderful person and I feel blessed and privileged by your words – which are a hug and enormous comfort to me. Sorry that I am relying on what I wrote previously for Cassidy – but it is no less true for repetition – bless your sweet heart; I love your spirit! Thanks for your friendship xoxoxo

    – msdebbie

  • Matt Penfold
    Matt Penfoldabout 5 years ago

    Debbie, I so understand your words here, I’ve been there and come to the same conclusions as you, I feel sadness and sympathy for your loss but also elation and release in the words you’ve shared. Thank you for speaking from your heart.

  • Thanks dear Matt! It is such a privilege that even when we can feel quite alone or bereft in a situation – it is so much better to be feeling something – and interested in sharing it. I do not want to seem completely anti-religious, but I think emotional truth for each of us has its own resonance and association that it is (of course) important to be true to oneself. Thanks for reminding me (like Rubyjo) that rarely is anything a solo quest – many of us are on the same journey, even if unbeknownst to one another!!!

    – msdebbie

  • msdebbie
    msdebbieabout 5 years ago

    To my best girl. People need to find comfort in whatever form they can, I know how you felt at grandma’s last few months and eventual passing, but I have to say, its a comfort to you and me both that you’ve been able to express yourself and find release on RB. I’ve read your friends comments and it makes my heart swell with so much pride, knowing that not only do you get to express yourself in poetry but you do it in such a way that you still reach out and touch peoples lives. You’re a constant source of amazement to me and I count myself so fortunate that i get to call you sister. Love. Peace. Happiness. Hugs. Smiles. B.

  • msdebbie
    msdebbieabout 5 years ago

    hehe. used your own login to do that. silly barb.

  • Peter Maeck
    Peter Maeckalmost 5 years ago

    Oh, MsDebbie, this is a cry in the blinding darkness, a courageous poetic thrust. I discovered it after you responded to my picture “Caught Out” so generously, and I am very glad I did. I will now be reading your other literary entries, as well as your images. Thanks.

  • Thank you, Peter, for such a wonderful comment. It was quite an emotional write, but helped me to feel in touch with my grief and that is a good thing! Cheers, Deb xoxo

    – msdebbie

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