The Heart of Grief

The Heart of Grief - "Reflections on a Final Journey"

~ Andy Davis

THIS IS A STORY OF THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF GRIEF AND LOSS. It is a moving account of how one man, in honoring his wife’s legacy, discovered that care-giving or giving care to memories can nourish a sense of deep connection. Through a personal ritual or ceremony we can create a tangible love to carry us forward in our lives.

For many summers my wife, Pam Carter, had worked out west as a white water river guide. She loved being on the water and before she passed away she asked me to take her ashes to a river that had been significant in her life. In reflecting on her request, I thought of the Hudson because Pam had been born in NYC and also for the connection it has to Lake Champlain where we had spent many happy times.

The plan became for me to paddle Pam’s kayak with her ashes from Kingsland Bay in Ferrisburgh to Fort Edward, NY, where the Champlain Canal meets the Hudson River. There I would fulfill her final wishes.

As I departed last September my biggest fear was that I would sustain a paddling injury, but after five days with no aches and pains I reached Fort Edward. Feeling well, I decided to continue beyond this original destination. Over the next eight days I became captivated by the solitude and beauty of the river.

To my surprise I eventually reached Manhattan, where I recalled that Pam had once pointed out the hospital where she was born. I could see it from the river and it was here that the circle of Pam’s life was connected.

I had decided to take the train home, but what to do with the kayak? Paddling on I discovered a kayak center at Pier 84. I was happy to learn that the organization is committed to introducing young people to kayaking. My dilemma was solved. I donated the kayak, paddle and life jacket to the center. It seemed fitting as Pam had taken many kids out on rivers in her guiding days and continued to help young people in her later work as a psychotherapist in Middlebury. When I told the manager the reason for the trip he replied, “from now on the kayak will be known as the Pam.”

During the train trip home I caught many glimpses of the river Pam and I had just traveled together. It was a surreal trip back, emotions as turbulent as the waters of NY harbor. Yet it was heartwarming to know that Pam’s kayak had a new purpose – that of teaching and helping young people - a mission to which she devoted her life’s work. I knew then that her legacy of that work would continue… there on the river.

Andy Davis lives in Middlebury and continues to enjoy kayaking, often in some of the favorite spots where he and Pam had paddled together.

The Heart of Grief - "Releasing the Story from the Body"

The Heart of Grief - “Releasing Story from the Body”

~ Louella Richer

When my parents died, I was afraid of my voice. My voice showed my emotion, which expressed my weakness. I was afraid to speak. I wanted the dark to encompass me and swallow me whole. I wanted this. I wanted to die. To release myself from the pain and grief I was experiencing but felt I could not express.

Instead, I was numb, raw, and vulnerable. I was silent.

What kind of life settles into our bones, our blood, our fascia if we don’t take the time to grieve these losses? Can we dive into the wound, the loss - excavate and unearth it, then move back out of it? If not grieved, loss has a way of living in the body. But grieving often means moving into hard parts of ourselves and making a home in it, settling into shadows.

We are so separated from our own bodies. We separate our mind, our body, our soul, as if one can function without the other. Allowing for this fragmented way of 'how we know what we know' into mind vs body vs emotions. We separate. I separate. How do we reclaim our bodies?

Giving language to grief is not just remembering it or replaying it in ones mind in order to write; it’s the feeling, the remembering in the body. What does it mean to have deep wounds that are almost beyond language? Beyond words? Words. For me, sometimes such a limiting means of expression. Such confines we create these moments of life within. If I’m honest, I would say I am scared of words.

When I turn to art, I am allowed a place to express myself without words. Some of my paintings, such as “Behind the Screen,” start with writing but when the words stop, I turn to paint.

Through painting, I gain insight as I relate to my grief. Perhaps it’s because I obtain a certain distance; find a space that no longer feels like it will swallow me up but instead, allows me to assimilate the meaning of the loss into my life. I have also found connection and that, I realized, was what I had been searching for all along; connection to myself, my story, my community, my wholeness. I feel like art is almost a public service, an expression of ourselves as a witness to something bigger.

This work shows the complexity of these experiences and how they cannot be easily categorized into stages and gates but instead each person must find their own path, which might not have a neat beginning, middle, and end but it will be their own journey in and through their grief so that they can find acceptance and wholeness too.

Louella Richer continues to use art as an expression of grief and loss. Her paintings, including the one shown, can be seen at End of Life Services, located at Marble Works and at Healthy Living Market and Café in South Burlington through the end of April. Louella will also be offering workshops at BUNDLE (the old Clay’s) at 60 Main St. Middlebury starting in early summer.

The Heart of Grief - "Graduating Grief?"

Contributed by Dorothea Longevin

Freshman:

New kid-on-the-block of grieving,

the home we knew - no longer with reach.

Deposited in a world full of strange new demands,

and others like me - dazed looking, searching for equilibrium.

“It’s a new beginning!” - they say.

“You’ll get used to it!” - they say.

Sophomore:

Survived freshman year - in a haze.

Got a few classes on this grieving stuff down - the basics anyway.

More hoops to jump through - apparently mandatory.

Does grieving offer credits?

Start getting serious about your major:

A New Life - alone.

Junior:

Survived the ‘going through the motions’

of the grieving curriculum.

Made some peer-group friends! - Grief-Networking?

More in-depth study of the subject at hand.

Lab-work for the heart,

Endless papers to write on:

“What I learned in grieving school is…?”

Senior

Homestretch? - What home?

Post-graduate study consideration:

Is there a post-grad in grieving?

Life-Testings have become familiar.

Examining my progress.

Applying for a new life.

Graduating Grief"? - One Heart-Felt Lesson at a Time!