Category: beneath the leaves

The shape of grief

It is easy to write about rainbows and butterflies. About the abundance of life blooming all around us. It is much harder to write about tragic loss. To sit with our pain and to actually acknowledge it. In the past I’ve often tried to push myself through it, to prove how strong and resilient I was. But this time I wanted to give myself as much space and time as I needed. So instead of running back to my old life, I read It’s ok that you’re not ok by Meghan Devine. It’s one of the most enlightening books on grief I’ve ever read. It felt like a voice in the dark telling me: what you are feeling is completely normal. It helped me to understand that it’s not crazy to feel all over the place, have mysterious pains and aches in your body, or feel anxious about EVERYTHING. That you’re allowed to collapse – after all, your world has collapsed. And that this isn’t something we’re supposed to fix. As Adrienne Rich wrote, “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.”

Hearts get broken

This winter was one of the darkest winters in years. At first it seemed it would be beautiful season, full of new adventures and love. It was the discovery of a tiny heart beating inside of me that illuminated our world. Isn’t it the most miraculous thing, to carry the seed of life within you? From that day on you are the guardian of another living being, protecting it with all your might. Words fail to describe the sadness and grief when this little heart stops beating. Together we surrendered to the dark, letting it cut more deep. It was only after a few days that I realised that somewhere inside I might be holding onto it, not wanting to let it go… but that eventually I would have to. Over the years I’ve learned that rituals help with grief, so that night we put a blossoming Curcuma flower on a silver tray in the middle of the room and lit three candles around it, a healing stone and seashell heart, and as the sage was burning and the drum beating, I cut the seed of life and offered it up to the stars.

Summer of healing

Deep down I knew that when it came to healing, I still had some work to do. I decided to dust off my copy of Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman. Herman explains that the first principle of recovery is empowerment. That others may offer advice, support and care, but not cure. For any intervention, no matter how well-intentioned, that takes away your power is not in fact a healing relationship. So I really wanted to learn a way to heal myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how and where to start. And then, on a beautiful summer’s day in the forest I met a wolf. As I looked into her kind and wise eyes, I immediately felt that she was the one to ask for help. The wolf told me a story about how other animals process trauma. A deer who survives an attack will find a hiding place and start to shiver. This helps to shake out the excess charge in her body. Trembling is a natural response to trauma that some of us have unlearned or forgotten. But by trusting our bodies, we can re-member it again.

Shadows of the past

Each new relationship challenges you in ways you weren’t expecting. For me living together with the one I love means being confronted with my vulnerability, all of my imperfections and idiosyncrasies. Basically all of the things I try to hide most of the time. And then there’s the stuff from my past. Coping mechanisms that used to work are failing and unresolved issues are flaring up like wildfires. As Katherine Anne Porter once wrote, the past is never where you think you left it. Old files that I had neatly tucked away in brown paper boxes and labelled as closed are suddenly resurfacing all over the place. My first reaction was to panic and to try to shove them back into the closet and sweep the rest under the carpet, hoping they would not notice. But there’s no way that you can keep that up. Trying to pretend everything is OK is really draining. So I’ve learned that the best way to deal with it is to accept yourself and your past. To own up to it and be honest about it. To bring it into the light.

The shape of now

It is the midst of winter. And no matter how much I love the snow swirling down outside, covering the world with a blanket of quiet whiteness, I also long to feel the warmth of sunrays on my face. I vaguely remember what it was like when life was of an easier, lighter kind. And yet, I understand that this time, slowly gliding along in the darkness, has a purpose. That it allows me to let go of things that no longer serve me and to process all of the changes that have so rapidly succeeded each other. Even positive changes need time adjusting to. Time to familiarise myself with the new colours and shapes of my life, their edges and curves. To be frightened by them and long for the days of old, to retreat into the safety of the familiar, and then to take a step forward again, to welcome and embrace them. To understand that it was me who invited them in, even when it scares me and I question whether I was actually ready for them. To let go of these doubts and let myself be enveloped by them.