I can only say thank heavens Gina decided to share both the circumstances of her grief and her poetry because she has done something remarkable here.
Each poem is accompanied by a brief personal explanatory note from Gina that places it in context and these are all contexts that a bereaved person will recognise with ease. There is nothing mawkish or sentimental about any of it; it's a book that gives anyone permission and the courage to do the agonising but essential work of grieving however they may choose.
Crying over the clothes of the deceased person long after they've died, the full house suddenly empty, the right words from a friend at the right time, 'One foot in front of the other and don't forget to breathe.' The feeling that the ground may be about to give way beneath your feet, others living a normal life while you think yours may never be so again, the letters that keep arriving addressed to the dead person, the hours of sitting and staring into space and many more.
The profound comfort to be gained from knowing this is all normal and part of the process cannot be over-stated and this book, with its short pieces, is perfect for that brief attention span so often experienced after a bereavement, making it ideal to have alongside.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone whether grieving or not; everything within speaks to the many facets of grief and loss, and there are startling moments of such acute and simple revelation making it a book that offers both an understanding of grief as well as endless compassion. I will return to it many times over. Here's one extract:
'This photograph of Robin and me stood near the television in the sitting room which I had to go through to get to the kitchen, so I could hardly avoid seeing it. There were other photographs around of course, but it was this particular one, taken not long ago, that seemed to be a focus for my loss.'
At first I almost took the photograph
down. It showed the two of us
together, walking in the Chiltern hills.
We had stopped for a rest. I leant
against you, your arm around me
my head on your shoulder.
The pain I felt each time I saw it
was so acute, it made me feel
again my overwhelming loss.
But to stare at the space it would
leave would be worse. So it
stayed. And gradually as time
passed, I made a friend of pain.
And now in moments of anxiety,
I stand and look at the photograph.
I lean on you still and will all
my life. Your arm around me.
My head on your shoulder.