As a social worker, I helped people work through grief in many different settings. I worked in hospice for a while, but issues related to grief and loss were a common focus no matter where I worked. They were no less central for the people I saw at community mental health clinics, crisis response programs, or substance use treatment centers than they were for my hospice clients.
Art has an undeniable ability to touch parts of our hearts that are often locked away and only accessible through our subconscious. Not every piece of art has the keys to unlock the guarded door, and we can’t predict if a sculpture, painting, or song will be the arrow that pierces our soul. Even if you aren’t typically able to understand art, like me, we can still appreciate great art when we see it. During my darkest hour of grieving, after we had lost 5 of our relatives and then had to put our cat of 17 years to sleep, I came across a poem that struck at my core. It simultaneously hurt to read the truth it carried and healed much of the pain I had been enduring up to this point.
The hardest lessons that we learn in life are the ones where we don’t get a second chance to apply the lessons learned. The death of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences that we can survive. In my opinion, the pain comes from the unanswered questions that fill our mind after we realize we lost the opportunity to ask them. The pain comes from realizing that the reconciliation that we have been putting off because of our own pride, can no longer happen. The pain comes from the inability to picture what life without that loved one will look like. If only I had understood the lessons below, I believe that the pain wouldn’t be quite so crushing.