Mary Oliver – A Poet Who May Help Lead Us Through Grief

Looking up into a circle of trees.

Mary Oliver is one of the best loved and well-known American poets. She passed away at the age of 83 in 2019 leaving a legacy of poems that explore the interconnectedness of life, nature and the inevitability of loss. She has several poems that touch on themes of grief and loss and the natural cycles of life.

Two of her poems stand out as providing an introspective look at loss. In “Love Sorrow” she reflects on the fact that sorrow is an intricate part of life. She suggests that sorrow be embraced to help better understand the cycles of life. The poem implies that sorrow, like love, is an integral part of being human.

In her poem “In Backwater Woods” Oliver examines the cycles of life and death. It has been said that she uses the tree as a metaphor for loss and the fact that beauty can emerge from it, encouraging readers to live fully and appreciate all moments in life.

To honor copyright issues, we won’t show the poems here, but we’ve shared a few lines to peak your interest from the poems mentioned above and a list of other Oliver works that may provide comfort during a time of loss.

“Love Sorrow”

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been

“In Blackwater Woods”

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things…

Other poems by Mary Oliver

“When Death Comes”

“The Uses of Sorrow”

“When I Am Among the Trees”

“The Journey”


“Wild Geese”

“Mornings at Blackwater”

“The Summer Day”