Those familiar with French and science history may remember Madame Marie Curie as a physicist and chemist; but in the early part of the 20th century, this Nobel laureate also chronicled her grief following the death of her husband, Pierre, in what has been called the mourning journal.
About Marie Curie
Marie Sklodowska Curie was born November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She attended local schools and received some scientific training from her father, a secondary-school teacher. In 1891, she left Poland for Paris, France, to continue her studies at La Sorbonne, where she obtained credentials in the mathematical sciences and physics. Three years later, she met and married Pierre Curie, a professor in the School of Physics at La Sorbonne. In 1903, she succeeded Pierre as head of the school's Physics Laboratory and received her Doctor of Science degree. That same year, Curie, along with her husband received the Nobel Peace Prize in physics for their study of spontaneous radiation.
In 1906, following the tragic death of her husband, she became a professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at La Sorbonne -- the first female to ever hold this position. Marie Curie was then appointed director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris in 1914. Her further studies of radioactivity helped garner her a second Nobel Peace Prize -- this one for chemistry -- in 1911. She passed away following an illness on July 4, 1934.
Marie Curie's Mourning Journal
In between her work with chemical elements and science, Marie Curie documented her grief following the death of her husband, Pierre, who was killed in a street accident on April 19, 1906. The mourning journal, also known as a mourning newspaper, showed this scientist's innermost feelings regarding her grief and sadness -- a side of Marie Curie that was never seen through the public's eye. Curie's private diary, which she wrote between 1906-1907, was published in its entirety in 1996 by Odile Jacob.
Excerpts from the Mourning Journal
It is very difficult to find an English-translated version of Curie's grief diary. Her journal was written in French and only excerpts have been found in various documents online. Here are a few of Marie Curie's words, as recorded from Marie Curie: a Life at Google Books. You can read the sorrow in her words, as she writes this journal to him:
- "My Pierre, the life is atrocious without you, it is an anguish without name, a distress bottomless, a desolation without limits."
- "Dull and dreadful days."
- "...I was happy there to have Pierre. He heated the hands in front of the fire which I had lit for him..."
- "Sunday morning after your death I went to the laboratory the first time… This laboratory was of an infinite sadness and seemed a desert."
- "I put in you all my hope of scientific work, and here which I dare to undertake it without you."
- "I do not conceive anything which can give me a true personal joy except the scientific work; and still not, because if I succeeded, I would be sorry that you do not know anything of it."
By the end of her journal, Marie Curie had grown from a sad and grieving widow to a strong and independent woman, ready to carry on the work her husband started:
- "I want to speak to you [Pierre] in silence about this laboratory, where I did not think of having to live without you."
- "Perhaps as the desire to prove in the world and especially with myself as that which you liked so much had really some value."
Other Mourning Journals
Whether taking the lead from Curie's personal diary or not, there are several other mourning journals or blogs available for grieving individuals to write their innermost thoughts about death or loved ones who have died:
- Red Bubble hosts a series of journal entries written in a blog format.
- Soul Cast is a blog where writers can post their feelings about death.
Writing About Your Grief
Marie Curie wrote about grief more than 100 years ago during a time when grieving wasn't as publicly displayed as it is today. But she was on the right track. Journaling your feelings about the death of loved one is one step in the healing process. Research shows that journaling your grief journey is a practical way to relieve stress instead of keeping it up bottled up inside of you.