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  • Writer's pictureBield at Blackruthven

Transformative Grief

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

For many years this tree stood in the meadow, dead and lifeless. If a tree dies in a forest, apparently those around it move and spread to fill the gap, but this tree was alone, a solitary monument, a bare leafless form that perhaps provided a focus for reflecting on those difficult times of grief and loss that we may have experienced.

This winter the tree fell over in the storms and lay in the meadow, its rather odd shape, of two lopped trunks with short stubby protrusions where its branches had been, looked far less aesthetic from a distance, but on close inspection, it was a delight to feast ones eyes on the prolific lichen that was flourishing there. Sometimes in the enormity of the bigger picture, we can miss delightful details and small positive changes that loss or absence can make space for.

A few weeks ago, I had been asked to consider ways in which the lichen covered wood could be cut and rearranged to make a more aesthetic looking sculpture. I was still pondering possibilities, when I arrived at work to discover that in the soil loosened by the fallen tree a myriad of beautiful small pink flowers were blossoming, where I had never seen them before. Not only was the dead tree supporting the delicate lichen, but now in its collapse, it had made space for yet more new growth. As I was pondering this, I was reminded of an article I read by David Whyte about the benefits of expressing grief and acknowledging death, in being transformed to live life to the full, and bloom just as these flowers are.

What transformation might be possible, for ourselves, for generations to come, if we were able to be liberated from the shadow of unexpressed grief I wonder?

The Well of Grief by David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief turning down to its black water to the place that we can not breathe will never know the source from which we drink the secret water cold and clear nor find in the darkness the small gold coins thrown by those who wished for something else.


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