Read the full poem I measure every Grief I meet by Emily Dickinson below.

Here’s a bit of an insight into the story: the speaker in the poem embraces a curious contradiction: firstly, she employs a logical, rational approach to almost scientifically assess the way that grief affects other people around her. She’s interested in whether they feel as much as she does, and whether they recover at all over their lives – and if so, whether that in itself is true recovery or just a pale imitation of the happiness and satisfaction they once had prior to the moment of trauma.

I measure every Grief I meet

I measure every Grief I meet

With narrow, probing, eyes –

I wonder if it weighs like Mine –

Or has an Easier size.


I wonder if They bore it long –

Or did it just begin –

I could not tell the Date of Mine –

It feels so old a pain –

There’s a certain Slant of Light – Emily Dickinson

I wonder if it hurts to live –

And if They have to try –

And whether – could They choose between –

It would not be – to die –


I note that Some – gone patient long –

At length, renew their smile –

An imitation of a Light

That has so little Oil. –


I wonder if when Years have piled –

Some Thousands – on the Harm –

That hurt them early – such a lapse

Could give them any Balm –


Or would they go on aching still

Through Centuries of Nerve –

Enlightened to a larger Pain –

In Contrast with the Love –


The Grieved – are many – I am told –

There is the various Cause –

Death – is but one – and comes but once –

And only nails the eyes –


There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –

A sort they call ‘Despair’ –

There’s Banishment from native Eyes –

In sight of Native Air –


And though I may not guess the kind –

Correctly – yet to me

A piercing Comfort it affords

In passing Calvary –


To note the fashions – of the Cross –

And how they’re mostly worn –

Still fascinated to presume

That Some – are like my own –

Emily Dickinson

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