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Joining Together With Gold

Oct 12, 2022

Becca Guenther, LMSW, CGP

The Japanese word “kintsugi” roughly translates to “joining with gold.” Kintsugi is a Japanese tradition and technique that is more than 500 years old, where broken pieces of pottery are put back together using a lacquer and later dusted with powdered gold. This technique does not seek to repair ceramics by camouflaging their previous damage or brokenness, but instead highlights those broken pieces in a way that is remarkably unique and beautiful. The end result is something that simultaneously resembles what was, while also acknowledging and allowing for it to have been changed.

Rather than attempting to hide your grief and the parts of you that feel broken, what would it feel like to embrace and accept all parts of yourself, including the parts that feel unfamiliar or diminished in value because they are not what they once were? What does it feel like to imagine if you, and all the people who love you, would gently pick up all of those shattered bits of your heart, and slowly, over time, mend them back together into something that resembles what it once was, without ignoring or denying that things are also irreversibly changed?

 

Dear reader, if this resonates with you in any way, please read the following with an open heart: when we encounter the death of a loved one, our life is forever changed.

 

To honor what once was, while allowing space for life to be different after a life-altering event like death, is often much easier said than done. It is also important to acknowledge that we may not want to honor our broken pieces. We may think it impossible to find beauty in a life without our loved one here on Earth with us. What we really want may be to have never become broken in the first place. Even here, the art of kintsugi may still be applicable: to allow yourself to be exactly where you are in your grief process, without trying to force yourself to be something that you’re not.

So, how do we approach grief and loss in a way that, like kintsugi, joins together our broken pieces and acknowledges the changes that have occurred, instead of trying to force broken fragments together when some of the most important pieces are missing?

This is what we are humbled to witness each day in our Grief Care department. Clients arrive to us often feeling broken after the devastating loss they have experienced, and they wonder what to do with those shattered pieces. Some share that the task of figuring out what comes next is insurmountable, and they struggle to recognize themselves and their lives because of how overwhelmingly different everything is now that their loved one isn’t here.

Dear reader, if this resonates with you in any way, please read the following with an open heart: when we encounter the death of a loved one, our life is forever changed. We, at our very core, will be forever changed. There is no returning to exactly what was. Grief is complex and messy, but it is a natural human experience. You are not expected to hurry up and “be OK,” or to pretend that you are not hurting and grieving. The work of mourning and mending takes time and is a process that cannot be rushed. Truthfully, there is no easy answer to the (valid!) questions of how or when the pieces of our heart mend together, but there is this: slowly and over time, despite what is inconceivable today, you may find that through your mourning, your broken bits are starting to come together and take a new shape. No, you will not be the same as you were before your loved one died, but you can find ways to be whole again — perhaps with a bit of gold holding the pieces of your heart together.

OUR FREE GRIEF CARE PROGRAMS:

While feelings of grief are normal, handling them can be difficult and painful. Talking about what you are going through can help. Call 734.779.6690 to schedule an appointment. Or visit our Grief Care page to check out our grief support calendar with a detailed listing of upcoming support groups.

Further Reading:

Many folks have discussed possible life lessons that can be gleaned from the practice of kintsugi and have written articles that discuss these ideas in more detail, including Terushi Sho, who wrote an article for BBC and referred to Kintsugi as “Japan’s ancient art of embracing imperfection.” If you’re interested in learning more about this practice, we encourage you to read texts from those that have generously published articles online that offer further explanation and teaching.

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