Grief is a hard topic to bring along, but it is one that I bring everywhere. I understand grief, and its direct relationship to love. Grief is a measure of love. We are all going through life with our own hard stuff, our own losses- death, divorce and life changes. It is my favorite thing to connect and speak and give a safe space to share all of those pieces that impact each of us. Imagine if we learned, early on, that we all are carrying hard things, we are all a little bit broken- but what we do with our broken and how we treat other broken people can change a lot.
Recently I was gifted an opportunity to work on a project at Pinewood School, a Peace Garden. I love creating spaces like this, to get to use my creativity to create a space for years to come and fill it up with plants butterflies love. The plan for the garden was to create a garden and surround it with rocks that were painted rainbow colors- the best part is each rock has a message, inspirational words and stories of loss and love. Students listened to a mini presentation about butterfly gardens and then I offered them a paint pen and an opportunity to make a mark on their rock. I had some really big rocks that I saved for big stories… I called those the ‘anchor rocks’. I loved that I could offer a child a space to leave what they wanted to share about their story, it could be a story, a picture… something special to them that shares how they want to. Some of the children had lost siblings or parents. I just offered them a paint pen and a rock- they filled in the rest. One child shared that music helps him feel the feelings he needs to feel- pretty profound for a 4th grader. The best part… I don’t know his story, nor do you, but he left his mark in the peace garden in a positive space.
During my presentation, I ensured that this space was a place of respect, that kids need to care for it so the garden can be there for a long time. I also told them if they wrote inappropriate words or pictures I would repaint the rock and they would lose their opportunity to leave their mark. I only had to repaint a few rocks…
One student who was not necessarily a great listener and interrupted me a few times painted his rock. I was slightly annoyed with him for entering my space and being rude, but then he painted his rock with one word. His small red rock had the word “Rage” on it… he asked me if this was a good rock and his inspirational word. I told him that word is not inspirational, I asked him if he had another inspirational word. He responded “Rage is inevitable”. I took a different route with him, I took his red rock and handed him a green one. I told him that I know what it feels like to feel rage, I know that feeling. I also told him that when I feel rage and anger like that I have things I do to feel better- I breathe, I go for a walk. I told him we all feel rage, but the inspirational part (the important feeling) is how you get past the rage. He returned with a green rock with the words “Just Breathe”.
Life is hard. It is hard for all of us. We are all going through something… what we do with it and how we carry it shows so much about us. Grief is part of it all… words and safe spaces and support are so very important to it all.
One of the biggest gifts in losing Madeline is the understanding I have for life and death, love and grief, joy and pain… they all ride right next to each other. I love that I still get to talk about her, share her and teach others about butterfly gardens and life. What a gift…
Pinewood Peace Garden, with bits and pieces of so many students.