Has your loss left you feeling like you’ve shattered into a million pieces? Loss has a knack for doing this, whether it’s anticipated or sudden.
What do you do with the pieces? How do you go on from here? Taking any steps from this point seems impossible; and very daunting.
How being shattered manifests
Feeling shattered can show up as exhaustion, numbness, brain fog, heaviness in the chest, boulder-like weight on the shoulders, or aches and issues in your bones and muscles.
There is an eternal flame inside you. You can call it lifeforce, energy, chi, whatever. This is your resilience. You can develop it anytime. The more you have in stock, the easier it is to recover from challenges, disappointments, and losses.
Make no mistake. Experiencing a loss means you’ve suffered an emotional wound. It’s one you can’t see but you can definitely feel. And like a physical wound, it comes with pain and inflammation, and a need for recovery.
With a physical wound, like a deep cut or a broken bone, you can see the bleeding, feel the intense pain, experience all the effects of inflammation, and notice whether the wound is healing or not. You have a sense of how to care for the wound whether by yourself or with a doctor’s treatment, and this helps you feel a sense of control and order.
However, an emotional wound is invisible. You can feel the pain but you can’t see the bleeding, swelling, or redness. You most likely have little or no idea how to even start feeling better. So you follow the crowd and push through the brain fog, ignore the feeling of dread that’s in the pit of your stomach, or distract yourself from any other body sensations.
But you don’t feel better. You probably feel worse and this now becomes an inescapable trap.
That’s because you’re doing with an emotional wound what you wouldn’t do with a physical wound – pushing through the injury.
Would you walk without crutches right after surgery? What about pushing through that pain? Too much to bear when the incision and stitches are fresh?
No, you’d probably rest, allow a recovery period, and make a physical therapy plan to help you get back to some normalcy. You’d probably even take extra care if there were complications.
“The same must apply to an emotional wound”
But there is so much lack of knowledge and social stigma, especially in the West, around emotional wellness.
How you’re feeling about the loss (not the actual loss itself) is exactly where you need to be. This means staying present through all the pain, messiness, and vulnerability. It means gathering all the shattered pieces of you and piecing them together as best you can, in your own time. It means being curious about all that you’re experiencing, asking for help, and being open to receiving messages, tools, and assistance.
If your experience with uncomfortable feelings and emotional wounds is keeping busy, staying distracted, numbing with substances, and assuming no one understands how you feel, you will not develop your resourcefulness. You won’t learn to tune into the power and beauty of imperfection or understand this is the greatest opportunity your loss gives you.
It is up to you to get through the painful and unpredictable nature of grief that bleeds out of the emotional wound caused by your loss.
Embracing the disorder that loss creates and moving through grief doesn’t have to be a bumpy ride. I remember when my mom died, I told my therapist I had no idea what I should be doing. I felt like I was invited to a dance and no one taught me the steps, and now I was on the dance floor expected to just dance with grace.
Looking back, I see that this was the story I was telling myself in order to deal with the shock, sadness, finality, and uncertainty. I needed someone to fill me in on the steps quickly. Being a perfectionist at the time didn’t help because I had to get the steps right and this added so much pressure.
I did what most people do: ask friends how they’ve dealt with loss, listen to any instruction that sounds doable, see a therapist, join a support group, and hope for the best.
This has the same effect as throwing a bunch of spaghetti on the wall and seeing what lands and stays.
No one really teaches you how to have patience, lean into the pain, stay curious about each moment, and how take care of your health while going through the grief.
I carried around the broken pieces of me the same as if I had broken a bowl and put the pieces in a bag.
What I learned from Kintsugi
It was only when I came across the concept of kintsugi that I finally understood the deeper lessons of grief. A few more years later I finally understood the wisdom of the shatter and the repair.
Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art form that involves repairing broken pottery using a special lacquer mixed with gold or silver powder. Instead of hiding or discarding broken pieces, kintsugi embraces the beauty of imperfection and the idea that the process of repair can enhance the object’s value and aesthetic appeal.
This philosophy can be a powerful metaphor for you, if you’re struggling to come to terms with a loss or a difficult change in your life.
In kintsugi, the broken pieces are not thrown away, but are instead carefully gathered and reassembled using a special technique.
Similarly, you may find it helpful to acknowledge the pieces of your former life that have been shattered by loss, and carefully gather and reassemble them in a new way. This process can be painful and difficult, but it can also be transformative, as you discover new strengths, resources, and perspectives that you may not have had before.
The use of gold or silver in kintsugi represents a form of acceptance and celebration of the brokenness of the object, and it creates a unique and beautiful pattern that is both striking and meaningful.
Similarly, you may find that your experiences of loss and change have given you a new perspective and a new appreciation for the beauty of life. You may find that your broken pieces have been transformed into something unique and beautiful and that your journey of repair and healing has given you a new sense of purpose and meaning.
How Kintsugi can be beneficial while grieving
Embracing the shatter in kintsugi means accepting the imperfections and brokenness of the object, and seeing them as a source of strength and beauty rather than as a flaw. You can learn to embrace your own brokenness and imperfections and see them as a source of strength and resilience.
By acknowledging your loss and working to repair and rebuild your life, you can find a new sense of purpose and meaning, and discover a deeper appreciation for the beauty of life and the overall human experience.
To find more information about how to navigate grief take a look at my article How to Create Your Personal Sanctuary.