Observing Grief Gives Way to Beauty
Beauty is not the first word you may think of when the topic of grief comes up in conversation. Perhaps sorrow, dread or suffering, but not beauty. In the classic book on self-development,The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron notes that negative emotions can be neutralized through a daily journal writing practice, which she describes as Morning Pages. These three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing point out the extremes in behavior – be it overt sadness or over-bounding glee. And in that quiet place in the center, I have learned from practicing this daily method for over a decade, is where beauty resides within grief.
Not everyone is willing to find that center. They will reject it. They will deny it. Someone recommend that I suspend the grief “over there” – as if it were capable of being conveniently shelved for later inspection. The only problem is that grief is a tired ad weary travel companion, who will not leave you alone until you complete the conversation with it. And that conversation is one you have to have within yourself, which is why journal writing works so well. Send out a question disguised as a writing prompt: “What do I need to learn from grief?” Then, without judgement, write the reply for three pages.
I did this exercise recently in the heartland of Florida after my step-father passed away. He battled a long and debilitating fight with a slew of diseases, which turned his world upside-down. I was walking near a canal near his home at dawn, which was cloudy with the approach of a storm. Reflected there in the dark waters of the canal was every palmetto, every cattail, every lily pad that was on or near the shore. And I got a glowing feeling inside of me as I wrote down in my journal after the walk, “that beauty resides reflected in grief with memories of family trips and Italian cooking lessons just as the beauty was reflected from the shore in the waters of the canal.” It was a mid-life lesson to observe this lush land as I, too, observed the life of my father-in-law, who had a life filled with beauty.