Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Parental grief

Ellen Zhang
Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Photo of rose on a grave stone with two figures in the background, representing grief
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

We didn’t know the ending because this was us
back then. Sometimes wanting is not enough.
When the oncologist spoke. While you started
to cry only because your mother did. As we cradled
you gently. Beyond the singularity of such moments.

There is a universal grieving for parents losing a child.
All things lead to a point of sadness. Sometimes,
the only way to make something worthwhile is obsession.
And, so we did. Chemotherapy, pharmacokinetics, new trials.
Holding on to something. Really just you, a little longer.

Can a heartbeat be heavy? Blood does not flow under
bridges the way water does. Instead, rising things we cannot name.
Call it love, desperation, grief. Your mother and I search
for your face in every person we meet. We search for parts of
you in our own bodies. We look for you without end.



ELLEN ZHANG is a student at Harvard Medical School and majored in life sciences at Harvard College while pursuing writing through courses ranging from poetry to journalism and serving as Editor-In-Chief of two literary magazines. Her works appear in Boxcar Poetry Review, The Quotable, several anthologies, and elsewhere. Ellen has received recognition from Presidential’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Michigan State University.


Spring 2021  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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