Grief chose me 13 years ago today. Today I choose it with all my heart.
I choose to let it grow with me instead of trying to cut it out as if it was a disease to get rid of. I choose to get comfortable with its sharp edges, to invite it in to have a seat at the table of my life, right next to joy and love. It is a necessary voice in the conversation of my life.
This year I found a new way to sit grief and love side by side by creating what I call a Life Mala. A mala is a Buddhist prayer bead similar to the Catholic rosary. Instead of the traditional placement of the beads I placed a green jade marker bead for times when my life and heart were busted open.
Marker 1 is at 25, the age I was when Nathan died. Marker 2 is at 37, when my baby was born. Marker 3 is at 98, the age of my great-grandmother, born in 1917, who took her last breath this year.
Traditionally gemstones are chosen for their energetic and healing properties. For my mala I chose beads associated with certain chakras, or energy centers. I used yellow jade for manipura chakra, which correlates with the solar plexus, the seat of our willpower; green jade for anahata chakra, located at the heart, the seat of compassion; and green ruby zoisite for sahasrara chakra, said to integrate all the chakras and found at the crown of the head. I sealed it with a spiral shell I found on the beach because it felt like home.
Stringing the beads under the darkness of a new moon it occurred to me that at one of these beads I will pass away myself (and that this life is not a dress rehearsal, so I've got to live it right the first time.)
There are 108 beads in a mala, and if I get to see bead 98 like my grandma, I'll count myself very lucky.
There is nothing easy about this conversation with grief but there is everything honest about it. Honest doesn't always fit politely between hello and goodbye. Honest is often messy, raw, and uncomfortable.
There is a kind of art called Art Brut, literally "raw art." It describes art that defies the rules of traditional or popular culture. Art that is not tidy and acceptable but raw and wild. Often referred to as "Outsider Art," it's expression that has not been edited or sanitized or applauded but has found a way out of one's heart and into the world.
What about Grief Brut. Raw grief. Can we create a space for grief that does not fit within societal paradigms, stages or expectations; for grief expression that is not edited, sanitized or applauded but courageously finds a way out of our hearts and into the world anyway.
Written, voiced, drawn or made, can we welcome our raw and heartbreaking stories of loss? Can we listen to them without looking away or looking for the happy ending? Perhaps if we pave a road for grief to travel and walk beside her for a time we will one day realize she is not an imposter but one of our own.