Widowed Affections

Emily Schulten, Western Kentucky University


In the manuscript I will complete, currently titled Widowed Affections, an array of emotions and experiences will be covered in a manner capable of serving each reader in their own way. This manuscript will follow through five sections: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Despair/Depression, and Acceptance. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is credited with these five stages, the stages of grief/coping with a loss. In this psychiatrist's book On Death and Dying copyrighted in 1969, she explores these five stages deemed necessary in order to get over loss in a healthy manner. These stages can be experienced in any order but are traditionally listed in this one. These stages are also suggested to be what goes on within a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It is for these reasons that it will be appropriate for a large audience to find it easy to reflect within a manuscript organized this way. In each of these sections, corresponding poems will appear to serve the reader with a feel for what will follow within that section. The five or six other poems in each section will relate to the inspirations of thought conjured by each stage of grief. While some relate more directly to this process, others allow for room to ponder in one's own manner life and loss. In addition, none of these works are set up in a way to limit or sentimentalize these emotions. Rather it is my goal that these works describe the stages in a manner different from the psychiatrist's standpoint or that of support books. Each poem should relate examples and images that may provoke response quite different from that of the usual outcries such as why me?, this can't be happening, what can I do to stop this? and how do I go on? Also important is that grief comes in different shapes and sizes. Loss may not be associated with death for everyone, nor is this a way in which this manuscript will be limited. The title of the manuscript is taken from a quote by James Martineau: "Grief is only the memory of widowed affections." Martineau was a 19th Century Unitarian minister and was principal at Manchester New College. This title represents the loneliness of one's struggle with grief, as well as the human weakness of the emotions that come with grief. My hope is that the works within the manuscript convey both of these aspects of grief in light of its five most notable outcomes: those of the five stages in Kubler-Ross's book. Most all of the works are free verse and vary in length as appropriate to the subject, situation or story of each. Some of these may get their message across in one stanza, while others utilize several to convey a plethora of images. Several have been previously published in small journals. Four of the poems in the manuscript will experiment with form. Two are sonnets, though neither of these uses the traditional patterns of the sonnet: Shakespearean, Petrarchan or Spenserian. Both will, however, use a rhyme scheme. The other two poems using form will be a sestina and a villanelle. The villanelle will be in loose iambic pentameter. One of the sonnets and the sestina, "Despair" and "Anger," respectively, will be poems corresponding with one of the five stages of the grief process. My goal is to compile this manuscript in a way that conveys the journey that the grieving process can take a person on, including how it can affect a grieving person's outside relationships. Without becoming saccharine or dismal, I hope that these feelings and images can impose upon the reader a sense of chaos within a grieving life/world.