The Well of Grief

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The Well of Grief

Modern day poet, David Whyte, has written a magnificent poem on grief entitled, The Well of Grief.  In Alchemist Recovery’s Lesson of the Week, we use it as a model to explore our modern day relationship to this often shamed emotion and how this contributes to addiction.

We will be going through it and examining its messages line by line. In this post, let’s take a look at the opening first half of the poem.

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water

to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,

the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering

the small round coins thrown by those who wished for something else.

—David Whyte, from Where Many Rivers Meet ©2007 Many Rivers Press

Those Who Won’t versus Those Who Will:

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief

This first line immediately makes the distinction between two kinds of people. First, there are “those” as the “other people” who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief.

Second, there is “we” as you and me, who will take that plunge.

This implies that you have taken the plunge, but have you?

  • If so, when was this?

  • What were the specific circumstances?

  • How long ago was this?

  • Do you still carry this Grief around?

  • If so, how do you think it manifests in your life?

If you find yourself as one of the people who has not or will not slip beneath the surface, you can now begin to see what it’s like and what is necessary to become one of the ones who do through your work here and now with this Lesson.

Grief’s Physicality: Sometimes, you just don’t have a choice

turning downward through its black water

to the place we cannot breathe

Can you recall a time when Grief hit you as a physical sensation?

I can. I will always remember the phone call in which I was told that a dear close friend had passed. At 37 years old, it was way too early for him to have a heart attack, so the voice coming through the phone hit me in the chest like a clean-landing, spinning side kick. 

I understand what the moment of traveling “downward through its black water to the place we cannot breathe” feels like. The breath was knocked from me, and for a moment, I didn’t know how to inhale…or if I could inhale…or if I’d ever be able to inhale again.

  • Can you recall those precise moments when Grief hit?

  • What were the physical sensations that you felt?


We will continue exploring the second half of the poem in this week’s second blog, coming out in just a few days. 

In the meantime, you can check out this Lesson’s free sample here and please post any comments or questions you have below.


With Blessings,

Randy Lyons

Randal Lyons helps people struggling with addiction who want long term, holistic care. He uses his own experience in recovery combined with his training as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine through his program, Alchemist Recovery.  He can be reached at www.AlchemistRecovery.com.

If you've got questions about this or any other topic in sobriety, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me here:

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With Blessings,

Randy Lyons

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