Gems for the Journey

Pain and Beauty

Can Pain and Beauty Really Dwell Side by Side?

It’s been a while since I’ve sent out a newsletter—a long while. This summer I finished up my trauma healing studies. Now I feel like I have a lot of information in my head that needs to come out. But I’m still processing the best format that fits me and what I’m trying to do on my site.

Has anyone thought much about the little slogan on the site banner, “Where pain and beauty mingle?” It came out of a conversation I had with some fellow spiritual directors. We were discussing my work and what I wanted to be about, and the fact that I feel it is immensely important that we be real with our feelings, while staying open to also looking for hope and beauty in living. This conversation happened to take place at the time I was having my site banner redesigned. As I was thinking about a slogan, “where pain and beauty mingle” popped into my head, so impulsively I had it added to the banner.

Having put the slogan up, it has been stewing in my mind ever since. What does it mean to be a grief site with a slogan, “where pain and beauty mingle?” To me, it means that I want the site to be a place where people and I can be honest with our pain and loss, while staying open to the beauty that life offers.

Being real with your emotions is important because it is possible for emotional energy to get trapped inside our bodies during the body’s initial fight, flight or freeze response in a crisis. Honestly writing, talking or creatively depicting your emotions are all ways to help this trapped energy to get out of the body.

Learning to be open to beauty and hope is important because it will help us develop new purpose in living after the loss of a loved one. It is very easy to lose a sense of meaning after the death of someone close to us. Noticing beauty in life opens a new space within us to see meaning and hope again.

Sometimes I wonder if it is too much. It takes so much energy to live with pain, how does a person find the time to look for beauty in life. Sometimes when I read articles on happiness, it can feel like yet another task to add to life so that we can be happier. The reader can almost be made to feel guilty because they are not happy or doing what they need to do to get happy.

Recently there were some events in my life that triggered the emotions of the first year of grief. To get my brain off the hamster wheel that said, “I will not make it through,” I had to get back to making those honest “I feel…” statements. (For more on this read the Dealing with Your Emotions article.)

The honesty of stating what I feel usually calms my mind. The reason for this is that when we have lived through a traumatic experience, our memories of these events get stored in our emotional mind. These emotions can be triggered by ordinary situations or comments. When we make these “I feel…” statements, we are bringing our rational, thinking mind into the story.

After the rational part of my brain has helped calm me, there is room again in my life for me to live with the question, “where can I see or experience greater beauty in life?” Then I feel myself opening to new hope and new possibilities. It doesn’t take away the situation, but I can be in the situation in a whole, new way.

Most of you are aware that I found a great deal of healing after my husband died by doing nature photography and writing short poems. Both the poems and photography became ways that I could state my honest feelings, as well as open myself up to the beauty of life.

These poems and photos have been published in the book Seasons of Solace. Recently I have made the poems available in an audio book form, with me reading the poetry. Since the photos were such a significant part of my journey, as a bonus product to the audio book, a PowerPoint video with the photos and poems is also available. Many people have found this PowerPoint video to be especially meditative and calming.

This year I've come to appreciate this quote by the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Traveler there is no path. We make the path by walking.” Your path will be unique to you. And the places in life where you see beauty will also be unique to you. I invite you to take some time and reflect on where you find beauty in life. Ask yourself if there are ways you could add more beauty to this day.

Photo Reflection

You may or may not find beauty in this photo, but I invite you to give some time to reflecting with it or another photo that seems to call for your attention.

Reflection Questions:

  • What do I see in this image?
  • What do I feel as I look at the image?
  • What do I receive from this image? What invitation or intention do I carry with me from this image?

New to the Site

Feel free to contact me if you think of anything that would be a helpful addition to the site. Also feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone you might know who would find it helpful.

May you find beauty today for your journey,