As I look at Denise Kester’s monotype print “Out of chaos comes the dance of balance,” I find my head and heart align. Grief is indeed one place where I have found chaos and confusion. But it has also become my surest path to personal growth and enlightenment.
Something that most of us seem to discover, sooner or later in life, is that we are not invincible, not really “in control” as we might like to be, but that we can, and usually do, find a way through the whirlpool of life. We are children of many losses; but we are also survivors. Sometimes we need a little help from others to find our way – sometimes a lot of help. It is a major step to discover that we are not alone; there are plenty of others who have traveled similar roads and who are willing to share their stories.
The best discovery of all is that of our own inner spaces where our worst fears lurk, but where strength, renewal and life reside as well. Loss will take us to both, if we are open – and will help heal us and make us whole, or “balanced,” to use Kester’s term.
Writing about the death of her daughter, Isabel Allende says:
“My life is one of contrasts; I have learned to see both sides of the coin. At moments of greatest success, I do not lose sight of the pain awaiting me down the road, and when I am sunk in despair, I wait for the sun I know will rise farther along.” (Paula, p. 313)
“I am a raft without a rudder, adrift on a sea of pain. During these long months I have been peeling away like an onion, layer after layer, changing; I am not the same woman, my daughter has given me the opportunity to look inside myself and discover interior spaces – empty, dark, strangely peaceful – I had never explored before. These are holy places, and to reach them I must travel a narrow road blocked with many obstacles, vanquish the beasts of imagination that jump out in my path. When terror paralyzes me, I close my eyes and give myself to it with the sensation of sinking into storm-tossed waters. For a few instants that are true eternity, I think I am dying, but little by little I comprehend that, despite everything, I am still alive because in the ferocious whirlpool there is a merciful shaft through which I can breathe. Unresisting, I let myself be dragged down, and gradually the fear recedes.” (Paula, p. 272)