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Break your heart until it opens.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Jamie Anderson

I met grief last year. It wasn’t a loving visitor, at least not at first. I guess because denial came first so even tho grief kept knocking at my door, I didn’t answer. But here is the thing about grief: it is patient and will wait as long as it takes until you open the door and let it in. 

But who would want to let in a visitor with sharp fangs and terrible claws, a breath that smells like death, and a heavy presence that seems to dim all light on its way? Certainly not me. So, I said “no” for months, I got super busy and left not a single second in my busy agenda to think about grief. 

But despite my efforts, my soul got tired, and tired, and tired…until all feeling was gone. I didn’t want to feel the pain of my brother’s sudden death so I built a huge wall of denial and locked myself inside my house. Like a little child who thinks they can hide under a blanket, I also thought I could make grief go away if I didn’t speak about it. But, I didn’t notice the wall of denial I built was blocking all the light too.

And you see, I’m not afraid of sadness, I might even say it’s a feeling I’m comfortable with. But I AM scared of apathy. And depression to me is precisely that: the absence of all feeling, numbness. A limbo where there is no sound, no light, no worry, no passion, no future, no memory, nothing. I’ve been there. I know it all too well not to recognize it when it comes. 

So I made a choice, to save myself from that limbo and I turned down the wall, I opened the door, I let grief in and I allowed myself to feel. Grief felt like a voyage through a graveyard filled with dry roses covered with thorns at every inch and it was impossible to avoid being spiked by them. But pain was necessary, pain reminded me I was alive, and it was a reflection of a love that existed and was cut all of a sudden.

Walking by the hand of grief I learned that you don’t bury a person once, you bury them on every occasion they were supposed to be there and no longer are. The first weekend, the first Mother’s Day, the first Father’s Day, the first Christmas, the first New Year, the first birthday… everything becomes the first time they are not there and you mourn and symbolically hold a burial on each occasion. And it’s the only way out of pain to go through it. You can’t rush it, and you can skip any part (oh, I sure tried). Grief has its own pace.

Every time I buried my brother I felt a punch in my heart but as I endured through the pain I kept thinking about a phrase by Rumi that I’ve put into my art many times: “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens”. That is how I felt like my heart turned to stone and I needed to break to let love in again because it is through the cracks that light enters you. I’ve been repeating that phrase for a long time but I finally fully understood it.

Time began to pass, until one day, I started to remember… I remembered love without the pain, I remembered his laugh, I remembered our promises, I remembered the nicknames he gave to everyone he loved, I remembered the way he smiled playfully when he hugged our mom, I remembered his sweet smell, and I remembered how happy he was for 38 years. I looked at his picture and he no longer seemed afar. I felt he came back to occupy his place in my heart, a place that is sacred and unbreakable. 💜

To anyone going through grief: it is not easy, you don’t wake up one day and everything is ok. It takes time, a long time, and there is no deadline to meet. There is no measure of time in which you have to be ok, or how to be ok. Grief is hard but is not your enemy, it is a bridge between the love as you knew it and the love that will be. Grief will break you, it will change you, and it will rebirth you. But it takes time, it takes compassion, it takes forgiveness, it takes mercy with yourself. And you’ll have to walk through the shadows before seeing the gifts at the end. But one day, I promise with my whole heart, the light and joy will return to your life and you’ll feel the presence of your loved ones like the sun itself when it touches your skin, just as warm and real.💜🌷

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This is a beautiful counterpoint to the pain-so sorry for your loss.

Barb Ezell

I am so glad I read this. I lost my Dad suddenly last year and this explains so beautifully what I’ve been through. Thank you for sharing your art & now, your words, too. 🩵


Beautifully written, I got emotional reading it. Thank you for sharing, I really needed to read that <3

Barbs Lopes

“Walking by the hand of grief I learned that you don’t bury a person once, you bury them on every occasion they were supposed to be there and no longer are”.
This is everything. I lost my Mother when I was just 20 years old, and to this day I tell everyone when they’re grieving – just get through all the firsts. First Christmas, first birthday. They’re heartbreaking and raw, but it always feels better after.
Thank you for your beautiful words!

Laura Jones

Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. I am so sorry about your brother passing away. I lost my mum 6 months ago and I feel absolutely adrift some days.


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