How a Poem Gave Direction in Therapy

A beautiful sunrise

Robert Frost speaks directly to the heart

I spent an hour meeting with an aging patient today – a woman I have worked with, on and off, for several decades and have most recently been seeing a few times a year.  By any measure, she is doing quite well in her life.  She chooses to meet with me about once a season for the comfort and pleasure of being with someone who knows her very well and appreciates the accomplishments she has made in learning to live with what she has in life.

Nearing the end of today’s session, I asked what she wants in the way of therapy in the future.  Her answer? To continue to meet with me on the same intermittent basis.  And then, she said that she was feeling very sad, and didn’t know why.

What came to me, clearly, was this poem by Robert Frost—an eloquent and evocative expression of the sadness of endings.




Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?


My having recalled this poem at the end of today’s session was a strong signal that my patient and I, with “Reluctance,” are being called to “bow and accept the end” of the season of our work together.   The comfort of the beauty of the poet’s words is a welcome bridge that we can keep as a shared memory in the process of going with the drift of things toward fare well.