The Well of Grief, a poem by David Whyte

Every time a crack appears in the dam that keeps my sea of grief at bay, I am reminded of this David Whyte poem:

The Well of Grief
David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down 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.

Source: David Whyte’s Facebook page, accessed 6 November 2020.

You can watch a video of the poet himself reciting the poem here (also from David Whyte’s Facebook page, accessed 10 January 2022).

I love hearing him tell the deeper story about the bottom of the well, and how he repeats certain lines, certain words, and then the entire poem in entirely different ways!

4 Replies to “The Well of Grief, a poem by David Whyte”

  1. I am on the way to my dad’s death day and I will not get to be with him in the nursing because of the coronavirus. In my haste I forgot to bring poems which comfort me…this being one of them. I happened upon your site and I find meaning in your intro to the poem..the “dam that keeps my sea of grief away”. I also appreciate the audio. So thank you.

  2. I love this because I’ve lived this. Sometimes you have to go to bottom of the well, so you can push off from there. Once you’ve seen the darkest level and emerge it’s cool and clear water.

    1. Yes.
      And when you find the coins from the bargaining stage, the wishes: your own attempts to resist the inevitable pain and subsequent transformation. You feel almost a protective sympathy towards them, as you would for a child who still believes in Santa, or who thinks he can stay dry by outrunning the storm.
      at least I do.
      Thank God for David Whyte.

  3. Thank you for having this audio from his Recording of “The Poetry of Self Compassion”— I first heard on cassette tape, then purchased on CD available on from Many Rivers .
    I needed the poem this morning for a friend faced with the extreme tragedy of death of a grandchild.
    Having the surprise of the recording was a blessing indeed.
    Deep gratitude and appreciation for your care with proper origin.

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