The Expert Angle

Grief In Spring

Grief In Spring

Posted on: April 20, 2022 | By: Amy Romaine, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, ATCS, BC-TMH , Clinical Supervisor, Grief and Traumatic Loss Services

Spring is often a time of rebirth or renewal. Nature begins its dance towards warmer weather here in the Northeast. People take stock of their homes and often engaging in some kind of “spring cleaning”: dusting off the radiators, cleaning out a pantry, reorganizing a closet. Sometimes folks take a look at their fix-it list and tackle minor repairs that have been lingering for a while. Occasionally those repairs require breaking or taking apart the object in need of repair to assess the root of the problem.

There’s often a sense of hope or unburdening in these activities. Hope that the change in seasons or the warmer weather will shake the winter cold or remove the doldrums of short days. Folks look forward to that feeling of satisfaction in completing those repairs or when the closet has a newfound, and much needed, sense of order.

But what about grief? What does grief look like in spring time? Does grief get reborn, renewed or transformed? Let’s have a look at the Japanese art of Kintsugi – the art of mending broken pottery with gold. Kintsugi is a centuries old art form that is thought to have begun in the 15th century when a Japanese Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, sent a damaged Chinese bowl back to China for repair. When the repaired bowl returned to Japan, it had metal staples. The Japanese craftsmen were rumored to be unhappy with the way it looked, and may have been inspired to find a different repair method. Essentially, they didn’t like the way the bowl was healed, so they took it upon themselves to find a method that worked for them.

Let’s turn that philosophy towards our grief. What parts of your healing process are working for you? What parts aren’t? Perhaps spring is a time to journal using Kintsugi concepts as prompts. Illuminate parts of your healing and transform them. Kintsugi does not attempt to hide the damage – in fact, it highlights the repair by making it out of gold, silver or platinum. Through death, your relationship with your loved one has transformed.

Perhaps this spring, it is time to illuminate those changes. How can you shine a spring light on where your loved one sits in your heart or in your life? There are a few major styles of kintsugi, crack method (using gold dust to attach broken pieces with minimal overlap), piece method (fill the entire space with the gold compound) and joint call method (find a similar but not matching piece to replace the missing piece). At this moment, the loss of your loved one may yield small cracks that need a minimal amount of repair, like gazing at a photograph or reminiscing with someone about a fond memory. Today, the loss may yield a larger missing piece that takes more resources to integrate that loss, maybe involving counseling or changes to every day habits in the service of healing. The absence of your loved one may yield a task or role that needs to be filled by another person, perhaps your grandson can come and take the garbage cans out on garbage night, maybe your granddaughter can take up the Sunday Night dinners.

Want to try your own “golden repair” at home? Here are two suggestions: “torn paper mosaic” and “pot repair”. For the torn paper mosaic, you’ll be transforming one object into another. Find some newspaper, construction paper or paper destined for the recycle bin and tear it up into smaller pieces. Then use those pieces to make a collage by sorting by color or style and creating an image on another piece of paper – a torn paper mosaic. Once you have your new image, use glue to affix the smaller pieces to your background paper.

For the “pot repair”, find a small flowerpot or small planter. If it’s not already broken, put it into a plastic bag and take a hammer to it – one good hit should suffice. Get some hardy glue to glue the pieces together again. Mix some food coloring or acrylic paint into that glue if you want to change the color of the glue before gluing the planter together.  In the spirit of spring time, after the glue has dried, find a seedling or some seeds to plant in the flower pot or small planter. Whatever seedling or plant you give that new home to can be a representation of your loved one, a new way to connect with their memory while you watch the plant grow during spring time.