Blessing for the Brokenhearted – Jan Richardson

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us

Grief, as I have so often said, is a natural part of our lives, an expression of the love we have for those who have died and of what we feel for the loss of everything that changes, that ends.

Poetry is what can give us language and voice for the grief that life offers us and which we must accept whether we want to or no.

To read, or better yet, hear spoken, a poem that captures some essence of your own experience is to feel the relief of being known, if only for a moment, a moment that can be returned to time and again.

This poet has written many blessing poems (The Cure for Sorrow); this remains one of my favourites. Written after the sudden death of her young husband, it is eloquent in its expression of brokenheartedness without drowning in despair or sentimentality.

I so appreciate the opening lines of the first two stanzas, Let us agree, and Let us promise. She invites the reader into her world which may also be one’s own. She turns away from the conventional tropes of pain making us stronger or that time will heal. Have you ever been offered such inadequate, even offensive, advice?

Perhaps for now – just in this moment, we can marvel / at the mystery /  of how a heart /  so broken /  can go on beating. Is it not a mystery that this is so when it does not seem possible? More than that, she suggests that it is as if the heart knows the only cure for love  / is more of it. For truly, we do not stop loving someone just because they have died.

She offers the possibility that the heart’s sole remedy /  for breaking is to love  / still, that it is as if the heart trusts /  that its own /  persistent pulse /  is the rhythm /  of a blessing /  we cannot /  begin to fathom /  but will save us /  nonetheless. Note she is offering a remedy, a healing not a cure; this is the medicine of poetry.

If you are or have been brokenhearted, I invite you to speak this graceful poem aloud to yourself. Notice how your heart goes on beating, how you go on loving because you cannot do otherwise even in your grief.



12 thoughts on “Blessing for the Brokenhearted – Jan Richardson

  1. Dear Jan – Such tender and wise words from both you and the poet. Wise words for anyone who is going through grief, or even being with someone else in their grief. Thank you. Love – Mary Lou


  2. Jan,
    Yet again you share with us the path of the open heart in all its pieces, yet somehow still whole. What it is to be alive, in human form or other. I want to say human but doesn’t the loon call and call for her babies if she cannot see them or a dog looking for its owner if he or she has passed on. So I guess pain and grieving are part of being alive. I don’t know what happens after that.

    Thank you for you beautiful, gentle reminders.



  3. Dear Jan, thank you for posting this poem. I do not know this poet. But how timely for me! My older sister died just 2 weeks ago. The diagnosis and surgery came quickly and death, even more swiftly. Grief takes hold of me, my heart, throughout the day. It is fresh and raw this grief. I look instinctively to poetry to give voice to this sudden sadness and heaviness of heart. This poem speaks to the truth that life does go on, the living go on living, the heart goes on beating.
    Thank you Jan


    • Dear Patricia, Though I am deeply sorry to hear of your sister’s death. I understand your instinct to look to poetry. May this blessing bring healing to your sore heart. with love, Jan


  4. Thank you Jan.
    This beautiful poem is vey timely for me also – in so many ways.
    And I appreciate your words of wisdom so very much.
    I hadn’t heard of Jan Richardson until now. I look forward to discovering other poems by her.
    Love you, Lisa


  5. I lost my sister on May 9 of this year in a car accident just 3 weeks before her wedding. In reading the author’s remarks on this poem, I’ve noticed that her husband’s name was Gary… This is the same name of my sister Elise’s fiance that has survived her.
    This poem captured my pain in carrying on in a world without Elise… Wanting to love big despite of, and because of the loss.


    • I am so sorry to hear of your sister’s death Julie – as you say the pain of carrying on in a world without her, as Jan did when her husband died is unthinkable at one level and yet your desire to love big despite AND because of this terrible loss is inspiring. I do hope that the beauty to be found in poetry, music, nature and friendships will carry you through this. Sometimes poems are the only words that can make any sense. You many also find this one comforting
      Thank you for taking the time to write to share your experience. my best wishes to you, Janice


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