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My Reflection on a Poem About Depression and the Power of Time

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Photography by Vera Lair/Stocksy United

Photography by Vera Lair/Stocksy United

by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Bethany Juby, PsyD


by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Bethany Juby, PsyD


Depression can feel unrelenting and hopeless. But not giving up and waiting can bring changes and transformations that once felt impossible.

If I had read Galway Kinnell’s poem “Wait” in the darkest winter of my life, I may have scoffed. I did, as the poem says, distrust everything — including the hours it assures will heal you.

How could I trust anything? My own body failed us in the worst ways possible.

I’d been pregnant with identical twin boys, and one of my sons died at 32 weeks. The other was born at 32 weeks after having a stroke in utero. His prognosis was uncertain, and rather than getting to snuggle and love him immediately, he was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he stayed for a month.

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?

— Galway Kinnell

In the aftermath, I felt like I had fallen down a hole.

There was no light in the hole, only the bleak knowledge that I would always be without my whole family. I would always be a bereaved mother.

There was no way out of the hole.

The strange thing about this kind of depression is that nothing is interesting. Everything is this same blank, dark shade of gray.

It surrounds you, and you don’t care because you don’t have the energy to care.

You don’t know how you will ever see colors again or care about anything. You don’t know how there will be feelings to fill the emptiness and the aching hollowness.

There’s no way the hours would be my broken staircase out of the gray hole. How could they be?

Depression told me that no matter how much time would pass, I would still be there at the bottom of my hole, a bereaved mother, a broken version of myself that could never be fixed.

But gradually, through forcing myself to go through the motions of daily life because I had two young kids to care for, therapy, and medication, the hole started to become less bleak.

And I started noticing things to be interested in.

Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.

— Galway Kinnell

My buds that bloomed out of season weren’t actual flowers but were little — and sometimes massive — acts of kindness from those around me.

I noticed the friend dropping by with groceries for us, who stood in the kitchen watching me eat a freshly-baked muffin she’d made, just for me, so she knew I’d eaten at least something that day.

I held fast to the memory of the friend who dropped everything to fly cross-country as soon as she heard what happened to be by my side.

When my hole was at its darkest and emptiest, I saw people trying to fill it.

And soon, those acts of kindness became my footholds, and I was able to climb up a little. I could see that the hole was finite, and it gave me the courage to trust the hours.

Even though I would always be a grieving mother and never have my whole family with me, eventually, I could see that the hours would soften the blow.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.

— Galway Kinnell

And as the hours piled on, I was able to add other facets to myself. I wrote about my loss and started advocating for mental health resources for women because I struggled to ask for the help I desperately needed.

I started running and doing yoga.

I took a tap dance class to try to find joy in my body again.

I started painting again for the first time since college.

Ironically, I love to paint big Georgia-O’Keefe-style flowers. And when I see my lilac bush blooming in the fall, as it did last year, I notice it and wonder why.

And then, I find the answer online — that previous harsh or stressful environmental conditions make them bloom out of season.

Now, 5 1/2 years later, the hole is still there. It’s almost like a person that beckons me when there’s a trigger, like the anniversary of my son’s death on the horizon.

But I know now that Galway Kinnell’s poem is right.

The hours are a friend, and they will lead you out of the disinterest and depression. The hole is only temporary.

Not only will things become interesting again, but there will be joy and beauty again despite of — and perhaps even because of — the desolation.

Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

— Galway Kinnell

Medically reviewed on May 23, 2024

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About the author

Jenna Fletcher

Jenna Fletcher is a freelance writer and content creator. She writes extensively about health and wellness. As a mother of one stillborn twin, she has a personal interest in writing about overcoming grief and postpartum depression and anxiety, and reducing the stigma surrounding child loss and mental healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College.

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