Healing Arts
Kara's Column > Layers & Living

By Kara L.C. Jones
KotaPress Editor

For those of us who miss our sweet babies and
for those revisiting grief on the anniversary of 9/11...

Closure is a joke. You don't get over it. Anyone who has lost a loved one and fully lived with the absence of that person knows that closure is a joke. You learn to live your life in the presence of grief. You learn to accept that days will go by and you feel fine, then suddenly there is a random reminder and you ache again. It is *NORMAL* to have that happen. The therapeutic idea of closure after the death of a loved one is bull. And if you happen to be in the therapeutic field and you wish to pathologize my experience of closure being a joke, you go right ahead. And I'll pray for all the clients who walk in your door.

For the rest of you -- all who *know* what I'm talking about -- this article is about the living we do after the death of a loved one. It is about the layering of memories. It is about the reality of life after loss. It is about using creativity and poetry to look at the layers of life in the aftermath of that loss.

Look, there is no closure, no final chapter, no end-point where you never again have to think about love, loss, life after his or her death. That perfect time when all is right with the world will never come again because we have lost our innocent view of that kind of moment. *HOWEVER* we do know that when a pleasure is felt or when that peaceful moment comes, we KNOW how to savor it. We know how to appreciate every stinkin' moment because we know how quickly things can change.

We live life in layers. An anniversary date rolls around, and we dread it. But the first year anniversary date doesn't suck as much as the day our loved one actually died. It's pretty close on the "suck-meter" but not equal. And the anniversaries after that are not wine and roses either, but they are different.

My metaphor for this is to look at a collage art work. You take a base, a canvas, a piece of blank paper -- and on it, you splash the initial moment of loss. The shock spikes all over it, covers it, is willy-nilly, painfully spread thin over the whole d*mn base. Then you write a poem and stick the words, one by one, over the spilt shock. And on the first anniversary, you have a few words here and there, breaking up the smear of shock. Then you find photos along the way that speak to you, you do some drawings, you find a bead or two that become meaningful. Slowly with each passing day, you are gluing bits and pieces of these found things, new experiences, new events, new memories on top of that smear-shock and poetry. After a few years, you stand back and look at the collage.

You can clearly still see the color of shock. You can read the words of the poetry. But it is mixed and mingled with the other pieces and memories. Take all of it together, and you have a landscape of your life after the death of your loved one. Call it good, call it bad, call it plain old life. Don't judge it. Just look at it. See where you are this very moment in relationship to it. It is a map that is unique to your experience. It is yours and yours alone. No one can tell you what to do with it. It is there for you to look at any time of day or night. And it is layered with the intricacies your life has evolved into since that initial shock.

You don't lose the grief. You don't stop seeing the memories of your loved one. You don't completely cover the shock. You don't scratch out all the words of the poetry completely. It's all there, mixed up together. *ALLLLLLLL OF IT* makes you who you are. And that is okay. There is nothing wrong with any of it.

And on anniversary dates, when you stand in front of this collage map, you may notice that the smear-shock looks a little more vivid than it does on other days. The next anniversary, one of the found beads might stick out more for you. With each added layer, you notice different things. And that is okay, too.

None of that is pathological. None of that needs to be "resolved" or "closed" in order to be normal again. Your frame of reference for what constitutes "normal" has changed. And that is okay, too.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, I ask all of us to look at the layered map of our lives after the deaths of all those people. I ask us to consider the layers that have been added since 9/11. Consider all the Israeli, Afghani, and Palestinian children and adults who have been killed. Consider all the stillbirths and miscarriages families have endured across the world this past year. Consider that we live with loss, layers, and continued life every single day.

Honor whatever comes up for you on this anniversary. And then know that all those layers, not just the initial shock, have made us who we are. Whether it is in a small or huge way, all those layers help us to appreciate the quiet, peaceful moments or the small pleasures or the little things that remind us how much we love and stay connected to all our loved ones -- those living and those who have died.

Miracles to you!

Author Biography

Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she honed her poetic craft under the mentorship of Jim Daniels. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. Because she refused to give her grief writing over to the control of outside editors and publishers after the death of her son, she and her husband Hawk founded KotaPress in 1999 as a creative outlet for their expressive artworks. She has been facilitating online and in-person workshops for over 10 year, including sessions offered at the International MISS Conferences, WA State Poets Association Burning Word festivals, and Course Bridge.

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