They say we are strong. Is that because they fear we will break? Like if they acknowledge the truth, the pain, they will break us. They handle us with care and treat us like we are fragile, on the verge of collapse, yet label us strong. We are both fragile and strong, grief and love. We are fragile but able.
Grief has stained my innocence with the deaths of friends and family members, but nothing in this life has broken me like the death of my son Cullin. The emotional trauma took a physical toll, hours turned to days without eating, and at times I was unable to walk. I was weak and fragile, yet able to keep going.
Related Post: Life After Child Loss: When You Have To
Recently another friend passed away and I took a solo road trip to her hometown in west Texas. As I pulled into town, I noticed that a little antique shop was open, so I pulled in. I have visited friends in this town for almost 30 years and have not seen a person at this shop one time before this trip.
The owner and her friend were pulling out and labeling items for their sale and invited me to look around. Somewhere between the antique baby carriage and rusty Tonka Toy dump truck, I started to get teary eyed. I was thinking about my son, how he should be playing with a dump truck like that. I was thinking about my friend Jennifer, and the four kids she left behind.
“Do you want to see my Garden of Broken Pieces?” the owner asks out of nowhere.
“Yes,” I answer almost in desperation. “I’m full of broken pieces.”
She took me to the back of her shop, out a side door to her Garden of Broken Pieces.
Broken pieces of life’s treasures and trinkets were scattered around a garden of pebbles; chipped crystals, rusty pieces of metal, shards of glass, a cracked ceramic angel, and a moss-covered mushroom surrounded by gnomes dancing on a cracked mirror. As I was soaking in the unexpected beauty, symbolism, and synchronicity, she invited me to choose a broken piece.
Related Post: Grief: Existing Between Beauty and Brokenness
You would have thought that I was choosing between a princess or teardrop cut engagement ring the way I was studying the broken pieces in the garden of what was, what could have been, and what still is. As I looked for and found the most perfectly imperfect piece, I asked her about the creation of her garden. When her father passed away and willed his antiques and “junk” to her, she couldn’t get rid of anything, even the broken pieces.
We can’t get rid of our broken pieces either, but like the shop owner, we can find ways to repurpose them. We will find purpose in our pain and a way to live without our children in this garden of broken pieces called Earth.
They say we are strong, and they are right. We can turn our broken pieces into masterpieces.
Photo credit Ginny Limer
Ginny Limer is a mother of five, teacher, and adventurer from Fort Worth, Texas. She founded Scared Sidless, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in order to support bereaved families, unite grieving siblings, and promote a lifestyle of creative, healthy grieving. Just as you exhale grief, Ginny encourages you to inhale hope.