A Poem for Hannah

A Poem for HannahMy husband’s sister Hannah passed away in March from the terrible disease of drug addiction. She was a beautiful, smart, caring young woman; she was also a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and she struggled to cope with that trauma and the subsequent anxiety it caused her. These words are for her.

The way I see it
I have three choices.

I can avoid playgrounds forever,
because you loved swings so
the sight of them stings the
back of my eyes with an unexpected
mix of anger and longing.

Or I can pretend you didn’t
love them,
that they didn’t signify
your innocence—swiped from your life
as casually as a candy bar
from a convenience store—
until the association fades.

Because I just did my makeup so I don’t
want to cry,
or because it’s a sunny day and I don’t
feel like feeling sad—
avoiding the tears and keeping my eyes dry,
at the risk of banishing the
beautiful memories.

Or I can choose Door Number Three,
behind which I don’t change the
station when your song comes on,
or switch the subject
the moment the tears well up.

I can see those playground swings
and let the rush of joy and pain—that
two-edged sword of remembering—
crash over me, overwhelm me,
choking me with the reminder
that you really are gone,
that you really did die
before you even reached twenty.

I can look the teacher in the eye
when she asks how many aunts
my son has and say
“three”—boldly, without waver or

I can see those playground swings
and not run away,
standing there with the image of
light and flying, free—
surrounding my soul,
making me lighter too.

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with the devastating effects of sexual abuse, two good places to start seeking help are RAINN and Darkness to Light

Do you ever write poetry?

26 responses to “A Poem for Hannah”

  1. Beautiful, Katie. I am so sorry for your loss. My brother also suffers from this terrible disease and I pray he finds deliverance. I used to write poetry quite a bit but haven’t in a whole. Your words inspire be to get back to it.

  2. The strongest, most gut wrenching poem I ever wrote was called “Preteen Whore.”

    In 6th grade I made the decision to take control over what happened to me as a child.

    I’ve buried that poem, for I’ve moved beyond. Yet, it was a moment of healing through the writing of it.

    Best to you and yours, Katie.


    • That poem must have been so powerful, Wendy. I am not one bit surprised to hear that writing helped you heal; writing truly is who you are. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Wow, Katie. This is beautiful and heartbreaking. Working in the addiction field, I’ve heard far too many stories like your sister-in-law’s. Thank you for sharing your poem with us. It was, no doubt, hard to write. I hope it felt good to share. I will be saying an extra prayer for your and your family.

  4. This is a beautiful, heartfelt poem, and extremely well written. Your beautiful sister-in-law lives on through your writing, and may she be running and resting and swinging on playgrounds in a place of peace and goodness. Door number 3 is the right one, because as you say, joy and pain are intermingled, and if we run away from the latter, we don’t fully understand the former. Blessings on you and your family.

  5. These are beautiful words and I am glad you’ve shared them. I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine the loss of someone so young who struggled with such deep pains. In my life I’ve known men and women who have been sexually abused and it has haunted them at every age. I used to write poetry a lot when I was younger but I haven’t in a while. I keep telling myself that I want to get back to it.

  6. Oh, Katie – what a beautiful, heartbreaking poem. I’m so sorry for your loss, and for the grief that you and your family are enduring. I have never written poetry, but I do write when I need to let the hurt and pain out.

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your sister-in-law. Your kids’ lives will be enriched when you keep her memory alive in your family. Grief come sin many ways and at strange times, but all you can do is face it and keep going.

  8. Sometimes poetry is just the mode to express yourself. And I’m not a big fan of rhyming poems. I haven’t written one in years. Just might motivate me to get back to it. So sorry that had to happen to her and your family.

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