I broke some pottery the other day.
I hit it with a hammer. Then I took the broken pieces of that beautiful piece of pottery and put them back together. With glue. Then I painted over the cracks with gold paint and glitter.
It was a healing exercise.
The pottery repair was one of the activities during self-care time at an all-day grief retreat hosted by Palliative Care Services, Saskatchewan Health Authority. The activity is called kintsugi, a Japanese art form meaning “golden joinery”, in which broken pieces are considered an essential part of the object and are embraced and highlighted instead of hidden.
At the start of the kintsugi exercise, we each chose a piece to work on. We were asked to look at the whole, complete piece of pottery before we broke it and view it as though it was ourselves before we lost our loved ones.
We put the pottery piece inside a plastic bag, then inside an old pillowcase and tapped it with a hammer. We took the broken pieces out and carefully "rejoined" them using glue, masking tape, and help from others to hold them together until the glue set.
Then we either put more glue onto the cracks and sprinkled glitter over them or we painted the cracks with gold glittery paint. I did both. There was glitter everywhere. Many hands helped me along the way. A metaphor for healing.
I attended the first Heart 2 Heart Family Grief Retreat, held in July 2017, as a participant (read my blog post). It was a wonderful, full day of talking, crying, healing, and more. Since then, I helped co-facilitate a bereavement support group and I was honoured last fall to be asked to be one of the 40 or so volunteers for this January grief retreat.
Unlike some retreats and workshops I’ve attended in the past, the volunteers for Heart 2 Heart did more than lead the various groups for Loss of Child, Sibling, Parent or Spouse. They also actively participated in much of the day’s program, because they too had lost someone they loved – a family member or a close friend.
My role at the grief retreat was to provide peer support for a Loss of Spouse group, sharing a bit of my story about my husband’s death two years ago and talking about what has helped me on my grief journey. I know, from my own time as a participant and from other bereavement support I have received, that the words and actions of others have helped me. My goal was to help those who are just beginning their journey after losing their spouse.
The volunteers and participants shared their stories, insights and coping skills within the specific groups. During self-care time, the participants experienced massage, yoga or meditation, walked the outdoor labyrinth to reflect, or joined a discussion group to talk more about their loss and about strategies for moving forward. We ate meals together, allowing for more conversation, and finished the day with a memorial service complete with a choir (in which I participated) and the beautiful piano accompaniment of our leader, Bereavement and Volunteer Co-ordinator Marlene Jackson. Without her dedication and skills, this day would not have happened and I definitely would not have been there. I owe her much gratitude for helping me along my path.
There were many tears shed that day, but there was also much healing.
I came home from the grief retreat completely exhausted. Mentally, emotionally and physically.
But I met some wonderful people – participants and volunteers. That made the day good.
I knew I had healed a bit more. That made the day great.
And I knew I had helped others on their journey. That made the day amazing.
I also came home with a beautiful piece of repaired pottery – a physical reminder of my grief journey.
The repairs to my pottery are not perfect, but neither is my grief. The glue and glitter are bumpy and lumpy and messy in spots. So is my grief.
The cracked lines may join the pieces together but there are still holes in my pottery and there are cracks that I did not yet glue together.
Such is my grief.
Such is my life after loss.
I will always miss my late husband Al. I am still profoundly sad and there are tears shed almost every day, but I am allowing myself to feel my pain and I am working through it.
There will be a hole in my heart every day for the rest of my life because of his death, but events like this grief retreat and bereavement counselling have helped me start to heal those cracks and carry on the best I can.
My brokenness is part of me. I will hold it together as best I can and maybe, occasionally, at events like the grief retreat, I can even show it off, helping others along the way.
(Another of my blog posts you may be interested in, What I've Learned About Grief, includes tips for those who are grieving and what to say and not say to the bereaved)