Her hardest hue to hold.

Nothing Gold Can Stay … or a therapist’s reflections on grief

Your Therapist Friend

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If you are around my age (30!) and you attended public school in the southern or midwest United States, there’s a good chance that The Outsiders was a part of your middle school reading curriculum.

The novel by S.E. Hinton tells the story of a group of Oklahoma teenage boys navigating the sacrifices and obstacles inherent to entering adulthood.

There’s an oft-quoted line from the novel, you may have heard it before:

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

One of the boys encourages the youngest of the gang, affectionately nicknamed Ponyboy, to hold on to his youthful spirit and lack of cynicism.

He found the words for this desire from the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” ... And from the poem’s title alone, I’m sure you can understand the tragic irony of this request.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

As a kid I had to memorize this poem. And though I don’t remember too many details of the novel itself, the poem has stuck with me. It made a home in my head because it efficiently captures the mournful fact that to love something is to someday lose it; that time never slows; and that all things — even and especially ourselves — are temporary.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about grief.

How grieving is the act of both painfully living in the present moment, aware of our sadness and loss, while also time traveling to the past to grasp at memories of who or what is gone.

In graduate school, I went out of my way to avoid taking any classes about grief or loss. I was certainly not afraid of difficult or harrowing course material; I threw myself full on into seminars about the American Opioid Epidemic, intergenerational and racial trauma, substance abuse that destroyed families, the humanitarian crisis at the Southwest U.S. border.

And yet, I struggled to look grief squarely in the eye.

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Your Therapist Friend

Kayla Lane Freeman — Licensed therapist answering the internet’s questions about mental health, relationships and how to be in therapy