The Garden of Broken Pieces

They say we are strong. Is that because they fear we will break?

Like if they acknowledge or initiate the truth and pain, they will break us.

They handle us with care and treat us like we are fragile, yet label us strong. We are both fragile and strong, grief and love. We are fragile but able.

A year and a half ago, a great friend passed away and I took a solo road trip to her hometown in west Texas. As I pulled into town, I noticed that a little antique shop was open, so I pulled in.

I have visited friends in this town for almost 30 years and have not seen a person at this shop one time before this trip.

The owner and her friend were pulling out and labeling items for their sale and invited me to look around. Somewhere between the antique baby carriage and rusty Tonka Toy dump truck, I started to get teary eyed.

I was thinking about my son, how he should be playing with a dump truck like that.

I was thinking about my friend Jennifer, and the four kids she left behind.

“Do you want to see my Garden of Broken Pieces?” the owner asks out of nowhere.

“Yes,” I answer almost in desperation. “I’m full of broken pieces.”

She took me to the back of her shop, out a side door to her Garden of Broken Pieces.

Broken pieces of life’s treasures and trinkets were scattered around a garden of pebbles; chipped crystals, rusty pieces of metal, shards of glass, a cracked ceramic angel, and a moss-covered mushroom surrounded by gnomes dancing on a cracked mirror.

As I was soaking in the unexpected beauty, symbolism, and synchronicity, she invited me to choose a broken piece.

You would have thought that I was choosing between a princess or teardrop cut engagement ring the way I was studying the broken pieces in the garden of what was, what could have been, and what still is.

As I looked for and found the most perfectly imperfect piece.

When her father passed away and willed his antiques and “junk” to her, she couldn’t get rid of anything. Even the broken pieces.

We can’t get rid of our broken pieces either, but like the shop owner, we can find ways to repurpose them. We can find purpose in our pain and our own way to live without our children in this garden of broken pieces called Earth.

They say we are strong, and they are right. We can turn our broken pieces into masterpieces.

When your grief leaves you feeling so angry that you could just break something, do! Then take those broken pieces and turn them into something beautiful in honor of the pain, the love.

Much love, Cullin’s Mama (Ginny)

Planning for Pain & Family Fun

When planning for the holidays, plan for pain. Plan for grief to join in the family fun.

Plan for the gathering and gifting. Check the lists, hang the stockings, and mail the cards. Then plan what you will do with the holiday grief. Do you have a plan for your pain?

Last year I created The Sadvent Calendar. You can read more about it here but basically The Sadvent features 31 days of self care based actions, reflections, creations, and affirmations that help you count down to a heavy date or get through a tough month. I needed a way to make it through another holiday season without my son Cullin and The Sadvent helped.

The Sadvent Calendar

One of my favorite Sadvent activities from last year was creating a family advent countdown using scrapbook paper, stamps, glue sticks, scissors, and a paper box with 25 drawers that I found at Hobby Lobby.

I spent many holiday-grief-filled hours creating our family advent countdown but I didn’t let the kids help at all. Lines had to be drawn and cut perfectly. The stamps needed just the right amount of pressure applied, and the paper lined up just-so.

I need to control little things in life because I feel out of control with some big things in life. Thanks grief.

Cullin’s Mama

Each drawer was curated with one chocolate per kid and a mini ornament but the tree trinkets became predictable after day three, and the chocolates were eaten before the ornaments were hung.

This year I want our family advent to be less stagnant and more engaging. We need more action, more chocolate, and my kids need to be able to have some ownership in the advent and their own holiday grief.

  • Borrowing from The Sadvent’s use of categories, I created 5; Movie, Outing, Game, Baking, and Creative Grief Crafts.
  • My family needs a 25 day countdown so I thought of 4 holiday movies, 4 games, 4 outings, 4 items for baking, and 4 creative grief activities.
  • My participating children (ages 11 & 4) will get to choose the fifth movie, game, outing, baked good, and healing craft for our family advent.

Day one of the advent, we will create a plan for pain as a family. We’ll make a list of what helps us through the moments when we most miss Cullin. When pain arises during this holiday season, we’ll choose and try our grief relief strategies.

Last year, I needed to take care of myself, but this year my family needs some extra time together. This holiday season we will watch movies, go on fun outings, play games, bake and create, but we will also have a plan for the pain of grief to emerge right in the middle of our fun family time.

What will you do when grief steals your joy of the season? Will you create a self-care advent? Does an engaging family advent sound like something that would help you get through the month? Do you have a plan for pain?

Cullin’s Mama, Ginny