Kira Elliott Grief Lessons

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Riggins is sitting on the left corner of the desk looking out the window waiting for a bird to fly by. Now that spring has taken hold, despite a few mornings of a light frost covering the car windows the past week, she sits at the window, watches and waits. Her black fluffy tail sweeps across the open notebook scrawled with my scribbles of thoughts in front of me. What sounds like hundreds of birds—warblers, robins, cardinals, little delicate yellow and white finches, an occasional blue jay—fill the morning air.

Life feels soft and open today. I woke rested from two consecutive nights of over 9 hours of sleep. My heart is brimming with gratitude for the quiet of Sunday morning filled with song birds. For the warm quilt and soft bed I woke up in. The morning light—a golden glow, filling the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to boil water for coffee.

I am grateful too for the stiffness in my back today. I had 4 yards of mulch and a yard of planting soil delivered on Friday. Yesterday my partner Jay and I worked out in the yard re-mulching the front beds.  Ever since D died three years ago I have let my gardens go to seed. I have neglected the weeds taking over my Shasta Daisies, Black Eyed Susans and Daylilies. The Hollyhock, and Purple Cone buried in a tangle of invasive weeds. The perennial garden surrounding the back patio will have to all come out eventually and I am letting it go for now. Today I will clean up the front yard.

When I look out the back windows I think this is what grief looks like, a wild tangle of unwanted plants taking over what I had so carefully planted and tried to control.

I also feel my heart swell a bit looking out the window because I don’t beat up myself for letting the gardens go to seed. I know I had to let stuff go when D died. The grief took almost everything I had inside of me. What I had left over I choose to create connection with other people and my heart instead of spending hours alone in my garden or taking care of my house.

My front garden beds survived better over the last three years. The Scotch and Blue Spruce Pine provided enough cover to keep the weeds at bay. Plus D and I had spread over 3 yards of mulch in 2010 on a hot sticky day in June. Yesterday Jay and I plucked the weeds that found a spot of sunlight to grow and spread wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch.

It felt good to out under the pine trees on my hands and knees spreading mulch. I sat there watching the late evening sun flicker through the pine boughs and dance on the side of the house. Of course I looked at the house and thought, “Holy crap I need to power wash the house, it is so dirty and look at those windows.” One thing at a time, I don’t have to do everything all at once.

I feel like I am waking up from long deep sleep. I am waking up and seeing all the things I have not done for the last three years. I know I have to continue to be kind to myself and give myself the space to soften my exceptions, feel sadness and joy when it arises.

One of the gifts grieving has taught me is how to let go of expectations, at least some of them. I have learned how to give myself space to rest, to feel what I am feeling, to prioritize connection with those I love rather than doing things I think I should do. I have learned I have more choices in life than I think. I have learned that I will get things done but it just might take longer than what my inner critic wants. I learned there is no getting around it—grief is hard work.

I also have to remind myself no one was hurt or injured because I didn’t attended to my gardens for three years. My neighbors never came over to yell at me for my wild yard. I can look back at the last three years and know I was cultivating my heart, tilling the soil and pulling the weeds inside so I didn’t shut down to the joy life offers us each day. To me, that was work more important. It was work well done if you ask me.

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Make Your Heart a Bigger Container by Meg Worden- I love the story Meg shares about grief and suffering. Better yet, I love the practical, doable—not deprive yourself—pointers about how to expand your heart’s capacity so you don’t drown in the inevitable grief and suffering of life.

Treats- The Secret to a Happy Life by Jacki Hayes- I firmly believe in sprinkling my life with little treats of goodness to keep me humming. I get a massage once a month, on days I have to work longer than normal I go out to lunch, I keep a tin of my favorite mint tea even though it cost triple the amount of other mint teas. Here is a good outline of how and why to give yourself treats. We deserve to have goodness.

How to Let Go of Attachments and Find More Ease by Sandra Pawula- Impermanence became visceral when D died over three years ago. I remember sitting in hospital room, his empty body still in the bed, bright morning sunlight filling the room, when his brother gave me D’s bag of personal belongings. There I was holding his eyeglasses, his wallet, his kindle. Intimate belongings devoid of the meaning they had when he was alive. They sat there in my hands and were just a wallet, eyeglasses and and kindle. It was the strangest sensation and it made me deeply aware of how all of our “things” are just “things” not the meaning we place on them. Once we are gone the meaning goes with it. Needless to say, it has been easier to let go of things.

Martha Armitage- Making Takes Time– This is a lovely profile of an woman who creates handmade wallpaper. Scroll down and make sure you watch the video near the end. Worth it.

This Fun Creative Exercise Will Change Your Life by Joe Bunting- I can get lost in the idea writing has to be important, perfect and stunning for it to matter. I can forget that writing is a way to access my joy and to expand my heart. I can forget that writing can be play, as a matter of fact my best writing occurs when I play and forget about being serious (this is the same with any creative work I do). I like how practical and doable this exercise is. Will it change your life? I think that is a stretch but it will get you moving in a different direction.


May you find space to cultivate your heart this week. ~ Kira