“You do not need to close pain in order to live life again. It would be scary if you believed that joy would not come again until grief is over. You would want to do whatever it takes to find ‘closure.’ Framing grief beyond closure requires language, rituals, and public understanding that it is possible to hold joy and grief together. You do no need to rush through grief in order to have joy again. Until people learn to carry both grief and joy at the same time, we will continue to support cultural narratives that shorten the expected grieving period.”~Nancy Berns, “Closure: the rush to end grief and what it costs us”
Really enjoying Berns’ book, and this quote in particular toward the end really just screamed out at me. I would say that you could say the same thing substituting the word/ concept of beauty for joy also. The idea that we could never see beauty again until we had “closure” on grief would be terrifying for me which is exactly why 13.5 years ago, I began writing about LAYERED living instead of stages that are linear and end in some kind of “closure.”
In the darkest moments, I practice what Miriam Greenspan calls the “alchemy of despair” by sitting with it, being in the moment and aiming to hear it, learn from it, see what it is showing me. But when it is time for me bounce out of that OR concurrent with sitting in the dark, I sometimes crave just a touch on beauty to remind me again of this quote from Greenspan in her Healing Through The Dark Emotions book:
“Tell yourself: What I’m feeling is despair. It’s an emotion, not an incurable condition or a final destination. I can tolerate this emotional energy and hang in there with it. If I pay attention and let it be, it will move me to a new place.”
Touching on beauty in the darkest moments helps me remember the despair isn’t the final stop on the Journey. Beauty in the dark reminds me the Journey is cyclical, reminds me that precisely because it is darkness, I can see the light sparking in my heart.
A really practical example of this happened in my world this week. I’ve been wrestling despair for a couple weeks now. Just behind my computer on my desk, I used to have strings of holiday lights in the shape of a heart, but the strings were going dead one by one. It was a depressing thing to flip the switch and see most of them out — though it was a reflection of how very OUT I myself have been feeling. As each string dimmed, I felt the fallow of my heart.
Hawk saw this happening and went looking for a new string of lights as a gift for me. He found these beautiful thin, clear stringed lights that are led and long lasting, energy savers and yet bright bright. When they arrived, he helped me put them up. They are perfect. But when we were done, he had me walk out of the room into the very darkest dark of the house, and then slowly walk into my studio to see them anew. In the very darkest dark, there was a touch of beauty. The heART of lights don’t fix everything, don’t get rid of all the dark, but their touch on beauty is enough for me to keep going today. They are present right along side my fallow.
Grief is like this, too. Grief does not happen mutually exclusive to holidays or joy or beauty. Grief happens right along side Christmas or Mothers Day. Right along side a concert in the park or a trip to the water park. Right along side a walk in the woods or on the beach. We live in a pluralist society. We are capable of complex experiences and thoughts. We ought to be able to hold the concept of “grief AND…” — yet, in our pop culture, therapeutic culture, social context, politics, and more, we seek “closure” so we can be done with grief and “move on” to whatever is dictated as “normal” again.
I love that Berns uses the language like this: “…Framing grief beyond closure…”!!! That is exactly what I’ve been writing about, working in art, exploring with creative prompts for the last 13.5 years. We *must* frame grief beyond the limitations of “closure” if we are truly going to be present and emotionally available, not to mention emotionally intelligent, for ourselves, our loved ones, our world.
So your prompt for today: Let yourself feel the dark or be in the fallow *AND* notice were beauty touches down at the same time, in the same moments. Let yourself see how this is all concurrent. Let yourself be WHOLE!
[Originally posted on GriefAndCreativity: exploring radical creativity with MotherHenna]