The Power of Words

We spoke to Katie Rickson, writer, poet and owner of Compassion Poetry about the experiences and inspiration behind her range of sympathy cards. Read more about Compassion Poetry in our Resources…

Compassion Poetry Story

I launched Compassion Poetry in November 2020 when I had the time to bring a long-held dream to life. What started as a platform to share my journey with bipolar through poetry and essays, has now evolved to include sympathy cards, workshops and presentations.

The words for my first sympathy card come from my poem (“For the Hurting”) which I wrote for a friend after her mum died. I read a book called The Way Through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning by Litt Woon Long which really moved me and reinforced how platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” or “they’re in a better place” can be harmful – even though the person saying them has good intentions. I find that some sympathy cards can be dense with platitudes and soppy; the words fall short. That’s why family encouraged me to turn my poem into a card.

Grief is not linear
And it won’t always make sense
But know that we love you –
Your family and friends.

A close friend told me she liked my sympathy card but found the ending to be problematic for people who’ve lost most of their family. I now offer another card with an alternative ending:

But know that we love you –
Your village. Your friends.

My closest experiences with grief were two miscarriages. We’re not encouraged to talk openly about miscarriages so it can be a particularly lonely type of grief. I have one daughter and have been pregnant three times. The third time I fell pregnant, our baby was due on February 29th, 2020 – a date hard to forget. Every year I write a poem to my angel babies. I turned one of these poems into another sympathy card to acknowledge this very real and raw grief for someone you never got to meet but you love anyway.

My darling baby,
I’ll never see you skip or leap
But a leap of faith I will take
To know that my grief will never leave me.
Yet I’ll hold tightly to the hope
That one day, at least,
It will become more bearable.

Every year on February 28th (or February 29th when we get a leap year) I take the day off and buy myself a present – making this grief tangible supports me to be more self-compassionate. Last year I bought a beautiful fuchsia orchid which sits on my kitchen windowsill.

In my essay, “What to expect when you’re no longer expecting” I attempt to put into words the hurt and longing and depth of sadness miscarriage leaves behind for the whole whānau.

In June 2023, I launched: Business in the Bath – Katie’s Substack. This newsletter is an extension of Compassion Poetry – I explore self-compassion, self-employed life with bipolar, being a mum and more. I’m also writing my first book! As an avid reader, I believe in the power of words to hold space, encourage and comfort – to help us feel seen and understood in even the hardest of moments.

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