In the first few years after Zoey died, I fought the idea that I was broken. Everyone continually told me how strong I was, and I tried to prove that they were correct. I functioned. I went to work. I found ways to cope. In the last year, though, I’m learning that I can be broken and still be strong. There’s beauty in vulnerability, in allowing someone else to tend to your heart for just a moment and in celebrating the repairs made to my own broken heart.
I came to these conclusions a while back when a friend and I got together to paint pottery. I chose to paint a vase that I could put flowers in and place at the table on holidays to honor Zoey. I painted it pink and added a sea turtle, one of the many reminders my husband and I use for Zoey. Much to my dismay, I came home one day to find it broken. The cat had jumped up where he didn’t belong and had knocked it over.
It’s been about a year, now, and the pieces are still in a bowl. I can’t bring myself to throw them away. As I look at them day after day, I’m reminded of a Japanese custom of fixing broken pottery with gold or silver. Kintsugi, as it’s called, brings new life to the pieces and treats the breaks and repairs as part of its story, not the end of its story. It shows that there can still be beauty and usefulness even after something is broken. It showcases the scars and the lessons in them. And it brings new life to the shattered.
I can’t throw away that vase. I am that vase. My heart is broken. Shattered. But through the years, pieces are slowly being glued back together. It will never truly be repaired to the original state, but it, too, will be pieced together with life’s gold and silver moments.
Every time I write a blog or someone reaches out and says that something I’ve written helped them, a tiny piece is placed back. Friends who will sit with me and allow me to talk and be sad or angry or confused, another tiny piece is repaired. The moments my husband and I connect and are able to communicate our grief, a shard is placed back so that its rough edge doesn’t sting as much anymore.
As I look back on our time and our story, I know I would never have asked for this, but I now have the chance to create beauty amidst the broken tale. My story and I are not meant to be tossed away. And I’m not meant to hide the pain or our history.
I carried Zoey as her heart took its first beat. And I held her against my chest as it took its final. As hard as it may be to believe, there’s something so hauntingly beautiful in that moment. I refuse to hide the love I have for my daughter, so why have I felt the need to hide the pain that losing her has also brought? Why are we taught to suppress pain? If grief is the price of love, then let’s celebrate that love and honor the pain.
In continuing on even though broken, I am accepting that this life may not look like I had imagined, but I’m accepting that it still holds value. The cracks and the gold that heals them are part of growth. The lines are the roadmap of support I’ve received along the way. And the missing piece is part of a great love story.
I am cracked. I am glued together. There are pieces missing. But I am valuable. My story has purpose. Perfect imperfection. Still a beautiful life.