Surviving July

July 26, 2017

I didn’t want to have to fight July again,

Fight her over and over again, only to lose,

Hopelessly and dismally,
I didn’t want to have to face yet another death month,

A cold, heartless, death month,
as I feel it creep up on me yearly,
stripping my skin off my bones, leaving me standing completely, utterly naked,
the month of tears that comes uninvited,
the month of deep sorrow,
Oh yes, July, you heartless month, how I hate you!
There should be a way to erase July, just wipe it off the calendar in one easy swipe,
shred it to pieces and leave it bleeding on the floor,

The way it’s left me wounded so many times before,
you callous month of dread, I despise you so,
Bring me September, bring me spring,
Bring me December ,

Oh let me snuggle my toes in the sea sand,

Let me breathe in the sea air;
Let me experience December again…

Warm and charming, so inviting,
I’ve counted the days 10, 9, 8, 7…
Until I found you at my doorstep once again,

surely I should have a choice,

 To leave you out there,
where the cold can shred you bare,
where my daughterlessness can die along with you.

© From the Yellow Lemon Tree, a collection of poetry and prose wip by Jo-Anne Joseph

It’s July, the middle of winter and the coldest month of the year here in South Africa. A difficult month to get through, a month I could do without and as I write this I feel the loss of my daughter weighing heavily on my heart. Zia would be four years old on July, 16 and most likely I wouldn’t be writing this, I would probably be planning a birthday party for this coming weekend, putting the final touches on last minute preparations.

I think back to the day we had to unwillingly say goodbye and my heart bleeds just a little.

I feel somewhat crushed, I feel somewhat breathless, and I feel overwhelmed. About a month after my daughter died, a read a piece about Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra, according to Greek methodology, he was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity.

I didn’t understand the analogy back then, I was still reeling, breaking, faking, but right now, I understand, I too am pushing my boulder up that hill again and again like Sisyphus, only to have it roll back down and crush me. Like him, I sometimes feel the disappointment of reaching a peak only to be thrown back down again and like him; I will keep pushing my load, day after day and year after year, up my hill of sorrow, only to have it crush me over again for eternity.

The thing is, unlike Sisyphus this isn’t some kind of penance for anything wrong I’ve done. I used to think that at one time, but I don’t anymore.

I’ve accepted that I am simply suffering his punishment for no reason at all and there isn’t any, no matter how much I look for one, there isn’t.

I’ve survived these last four years whereas early on I didn’t think I could. Losing her was like losing a piece of my soul, I was crippled emotionally for a very long time, I couldn’t see any further than the pain. The pain was what I held onto, it was what kept me breathing and every now and then, like July; I am reminded that although I am surviving, it still hurts a whole lot. And I finally know that it is okay.

I talked at my aunt’s funeral last weekend and when looking at her devastated family, I knew I couldn’t speak about surviving, not yet.

I couldn’t even speak about hope, it wasn’t needed, so instead I spoke about sadness, I spoke about how overpowering it is, but how necessary it is and how deserving they are to feel it.

I spoke about the weight of sadness and the depth of it because I wanted them to know that I understood. I too have been there. I too still go there from time to time, such is loss. There is too much expectation for bereaved families to move on, too much pressure to hold it together when on the inside you’re a screaming mess; you’re falling apart at the seams and there isn’t anything that makes you feel better, anything you do is simply done to numb the aching.

My survival these four years has been to do it my way, to not conform to the expectations of society on how I should or should not be grieving, about how long I should be grieving and what everyone else believes will heal me.

There were things that broke in me that day which will never be repaired.

There were parts of my heart and soul that left me, which will never return. I am forever changed. Surviving for me has been allowing myself to fall, to fail, to feel and to heal in the ways that feel most natural and normal to me. I’m surviving July my way.


  • Jo-Anne Joseph

    Jo-Anne Joseph is a wife, mother to two beautiful children, one of whom lives in her heart. She is a career woman, author and freelance writer from South Africa. She blogs at and writes for

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