What matters in life is not what happens to you,
but what you remember and how you remember it.
The last several years of life has brought what often feels like a lot of brokenness. Out of that brokenness, even more, brokenness in my life and heart has been revealed. It didn’t happen all at once but seemed to be more of a slow unraveling of everything I thought I knew. And lately, I’ve been wondering what it is that I’m supposed to do with all of that. What do I do with the heartache, the grief, the missing pieces?
The truth is that I don’t know that I have an answer to that question. I’m not sure I’ll ever have a clear answer, just like I’ll never have a clear answer to the big “WHY” I’ve been asking over and over for years. That one “why” contains much smaller ones, as well:
Why did I have a miscarriage?
Why was my fourth child stillborn?
Why were my parents like this?
It was in the midst of grieving the loss of our daughter that my world was again shaken by the realization that my childhood had been different from what it seemed. More than that, it had been abusive and cruel. My bruises never existed on the outside, but the pain lingered well into adulthood. Grieving my daughter changed me, but it was only then that I began to realize who I really am. They say that in times of trouble and heartache, you find out who your friends really are. That much has been true for me over the last two and a half years, but I also found out who my family is. All of it together rocked me to my core.
Related: The Frailty of Family
I’d never had words to put to all I experienced as a child. As an adult in grief counseling, I found things about myself that I’d never even known – hadn’t really been allowed to know. Before my first day of counseling, I never even heard the term “self-care.” “What do you do that’s only for you,” she asked. I couldn’t answer her beyond the obvious things like showering, taking a bath, or fixing my hair. (If you’re a mom those things do become a bit of a luxury, but even so the idea was foreign to me.) In counseling and in my own time, my views changed so drastically. I had words to put to the things I endured growing up. I had words to put to the intense grief I felt in losing my daughter.
It all made me feel so incredibly broken. My life began to look like such a mess, with all the pieces lying around on the floor. Step on one and you instantly feel the sharp jab of pain for things that should have been, could have been. Yet I would be called back into reality by two sweet voices calling for Mommy. Day after day, moment after moment, they still needed me. At 3 and not-quite 2, my little people still very much-needed me and my attention. They had their own feelings to work through, and the oldest had many questions (some of them similar to my own). Yet, I still felt broken. I still felt a gaping hole in my heart for my daughter, and there was a loneliness from the lack of true family that made me ache deeply. So what do you do with that
Related: When Grief Is Lonely and No One Sees
I prayed, I worked an MLM job for a while, and I volunteered to lead a Bible study in my community, with women who had been there for me in my loss. As much as they wanted to do the study, I needed fellowship. Over time, I began to feel the load lighten. Still, there were difficult days and moments, but the edges of my heart weren’t quite as raw.
It feels a bit like Kintsugi, the traditional Japanese art of pottery repair. Instead of throwing a broken bowl, vase, or pitcher away, they take a liquified precious metal (gold, silver, etc.) and repair the item. It’s not just broken anymore. The piece becomes unique and beautiful. Its cracks aren’t carefully hidden, but highlighted, instead.
On the other side of raw grief and broken family relationships, I’ve let go of the idea that beauty and brokenness can’t exist within the same space. I’ve begun to embrace the idea that maybe we’re all broken, and the world would be a better place if we didn’t try to hide our broken pieces and fix them with glue. Maybe we should try to become a piece of Japanese pottery, bringing our dark and broken places into the light where they can be healed and shared with others.
Maybe, just maybe, there is beauty in the brokenness.
Photo by Ryan Richards on Unsplash
About the Author: Sarah Kilbreth is a wife and mother to 5 children – 3 girls on earth and 2 in heaven. She has been a writer and blogger of sorts for nearly 10 years, as she and her husband navigated active duty military family life, and then experienced loss of children through miscarriage and stillbirth. Now, she has begun to help other women with her ministry, Eleanor’s Light, named after her daughter who was stillborn at 36 weeks in September of 2015. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram, as well as her blog (which is hit-and-miss ;)).