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By Dr. Mari Dias, contributing writer
“Let it be me” (Beatles)
I was an adult before I realized that Valentine’s Day was not celebrated by everyone. Many avoid this day. Because their hearts are broken. Not surrounded by cupids and arrows but rather a crack down the middle. We don’t celebrate broken hearts. We grieve them. Sometimes we hide them. Last week I was again reminded of how many broken hearts I have held in the palm of my hands.
I am fortunate that my clients share their broken hearts with me, along with the pain and angst. They trust me. And so, their tears flow, their chests heave, and they struggle to breathe. I continue to hold their grief despite its weight. As I cradle their heart, their pulse is rapid and shallow with anxiety and pain. I worry that it may burst. I can see the cracks and the shattered shards.
I do, however recognize there is beauty in the broken places. My clients’ hearts are broken, and they feel like Humpty Dumpty. Despite the efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, it seems they cannot be put back together again. Surviving the death of a loved one is akin to being outside yourself, looking down at the broken pieces, the fragments of yourself scattered in shards. It appears that the puzzle of you is ruined to the point that even with a great deal of effort the pieces will never fit easily, simply, like they once were. There are spaces between each piece that we believe cannot be filled – the break is not clean.
But it is in these spaces that there is beauty. Perhaps you are familiar with the Japanese word “kintsukuroi”. This word refers to the practice of repairing broken pottery by filling in the “spaces” and cracks with gold. Rather than hide the damage, this practice illuminates it. We do this because we recognize that mending is an art form, and there is great faith in the practice of illuminating the damage. Our mending shows us that there is indeed beauty in the broken places. Grief can evolve and morph into something different. No longer do we focus on the damage. We can choose to fill the spaces with gold. By doing this, we can make the damage caused by grief to look different. It is no longer the sharp shards of a broken heart scattered in an unimaginable mosaic, impossible to put back together. We can use our “gold”, to reimagine and reconstruct grief into something new, something different. Something beautiful.
We can accomplish this through our efforts to celebrate the life and legacy of our loved ones. And when I hold each client’s broken heart in the palms of my hands, my goal is to mend it by filling in the breaks with gold. This is my calling. This is my purpose. Let it be me.
Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.
She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI. For more information, go to: http://gracepointegrief.com/