Grief is a sacred journey

Nature’s Seasons of Grief and Hope

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Summer

Summer

My husband’s death left me with tears and longing, but Nature soothed me. I walked the trails of my land and felt supported during the hardest transition of my life. Like the first crocus of spring or the last Monarch butterfly in October, beauty and hope broke through grief’s darkness when I least expected them. Nature was my guide.

I had read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five grief stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but this and other grief systems didn’t help me. Monique Cerundolo’s book Seasons of Grief and Hope: A reflective journey through quilts and poetry made immediate sense because it’s a reflection and a grief ritual based on the natural cycles of the seasons. I’m writing about this book now because Monique Cerundolo’s quilts and poems will be exhibited in early November (see details below).download

Monique’s poems of grief and hope led me through dark impassable ravines and the “silence of the stars.” And then on to hope and love. Along with poems and inspiring Biblical quotes, Monique illustrates the grief journey with her own intricate and original hand-made quilts created in honor of her dear friend’s death.

Seasons of Grief and Hope begins with Winter and ends in Rising Anew. To quote the author, “We don’t get ‘over’ grief, we have to get ‘through’ it by acknowledging and sharing our feelings, remembering, recognizing our loss, reflecting, expressing our sorrow, reaching out to others and re-orienting our lives.”

In Winter in a poem called “Grief,” Cerundolo writes:

Frigid Morning

Frigid Morning

It’s dark inside.
No one can walk
This way with me.
Not even God.

In Summer from the poem “Yearning”:

Bird song greets the sun
Waking me to joy
And sadness…
Sadness seems out of place
In the midst of all this bliss.

In A Time to Build in “Parting”:Flow002

A part of me
Has gone with you,
A part of you
Lives on in me.

Seasons of Grief and Hope holds both beauty and loss together, just as nature does.

I hold the smell of woods,
The sound of rivers,
The song of birds,
And lost tears running
On flushed red cheeks.

Monique Cerundolo

Monique Cerundolo

Monique Cerundolo’s work will be featured as the “Special Invitational” exhibit at A Quilter’s Gathering, Nov. 6-9, 2014, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Monique Cerundolo is a chaplain, an artist, and a poet who was born in Uruguay and works as an Interfaith Staff Chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Her poems and quilts have been presented in many venues and were part of her artistic Masters synthesis in Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. After her first exhibit, she was urged to share her insights in her book of quilts and poems, Seasons of Grief and Hope.

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I promised a blog about the pyramid installation on my land the weekend after the launch of Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief. I haven’t forgotten, but wanted to share this timely news about Seasons of Grief and Hope. A Book Launch, an Engagement, and a Pyramid is about my family’s ability to celebrate together and turn a book release into so much more. For another family extravaganza, see The Day before the Wedding: Chop, jive, and remember the missing and Sunshine on the Wedding.

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20 Comments
  1. Lovely quilts.

    Seasons rather than stages comfort you better.

    I’m not surprised.

    Hoping you are walking in the leaves today.

    • Most leaves are down here, Shirley, although the oak and beech leaves hang on with russet and deep gold. Yes, I like thinking of seasons in our lives and our losses–and they keep cycling through. Those anniversaries seem to be triggered by nature. This week, I paused to remember my dad’s birthday. He would have been 99 this year, but only made it to 44. He’s still part of my inner seasonal calendar.
      Going out to walk in the gloom again this evening. There’s always something interesting when I get out there.

  2. This is a beautiful pastiche of the passages of grief. The progression of “grief, yearning, parting,” makes sense to me. And the combination of grief and hope makes the title so appealing to the bereaved.

    Also, quilting suggests that grief is not something to be hurried through – it is time-consuming, time reduced to small stitches.

    It has been nearly 3 months since Mother died. I think the loss is just now sinking in.

    • Marion, I found hope and solace in nature during the hardest times of grief. Monique found her way through quilting and writing poems. There are so many paths. I love what you say about quilting. Slowing down to create an expression of what we feel, mending our wounds, one stitch at a time.

      Three months is such a short time. It took me a while to find footing in my new world–and the process continues. This past week, I lit a candle for my father’s birthday. He died in 1959. I’m still carrying him in my heart. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections.

  3. Beautifully written, and I particularly loved, “We don’t get over grief, we have to get through it.”

  4. I agree that stages did not match my grief cycle when Adrian died. Seasons express the journey more naturally.

    One thing that I have learned through grieving is the importance of family and friends. I just had my five brothers and sisters here for a siblings reunion–a wonderful gift with our ages from 67 to 84. I know now that each moment with a loved one is precious.

    Lynne

    • Thanks, Lynne. I agree. I appreciate my only brother so much since Vic’s death, and he was a wonderful support while Vic was ill, too. When we were young, we sometimes went long periods without contact, but now we treasure each other. Did you have the family reunion at your house? Brave you!

  5. Nice post Elaine. Those are lovely quilts! And I can’t agree more that Nature is the most soothing balm there is.

    • Thanks, Amanda. I rarely do reviews on my blog, but I love Monique’s quilts as a bereavement project and her poetry and book. An illustrated guide to the healing power of nature. Thanks for visiting my blog. To give you a better idea of the small memoir stories I usually write, here’s a link to my most popular recent blog: https://elainemansfield.com/2014/lovers-secret/

  6. Thank you so much Elaine for your generous review and posting of my bereavement project.

    Thank you Shirley, Marian, DG, Lynne and Amanda for your candid sharing and your feedback.

    I wrote the poetry as I walked along my friend’s last ten months of life, and during two years after his passing. The poems reflected the passing seasons (and their cycling), and what I was feeling in those moments. The quilts were created afterwards to illustrate the poems.

    I have always found comfort in contemplating Nature. And nature was my healer as it showed me how to move from the cold still time to a time of renewal and rebirth…It took a long time…each of us has to walk this path at his/her own pace.

    Wishing you comfort in the special moments shared…

    Monique

    • Thank you, Monique. Knowing the context of your work and the order from Nature to poems to quilts helps everyone. There are more details in your book.

      I painted many nights the first year after Vic’s death. Image-making with words and artistic expression was a huge help.

  7. There is deep and wide healing energy amidst the company of wise women. I sense we might be better blessed to leave the next 8000 years more in the hands of such bright stars.

    • I agree, Dennis, and appreciate your reflection. You know I think we all have heart wisdom, no matter what our gender, but it has to be cultivated and it’s often only cultivated in women. The Dalai Lama is one of my favorite healing teachers.

  8. Sounds like a lovely book; thank you for recommending it, Elaine. As you mention above, what a thoughtful gift to offer someone who has suffered a loss. Adding it to my book list.

    Fondly,
    Ann

    • Our ever-growing book lists. Monique’s poems and quilts are gentle and supportive for a time when grievers need tenderness the most.

  9. Elaine,
    This morning I spoke with my lifetime best friend, who told me about her husband’s death this week. She was a great comfort to me when my husband died from suicide in 2000 and I will walk this journey with her now. This book looks like a great resource for my friend who is a counselor too. Your post was so timely for me and I thank you for it, especially since I will now be able to leave something with my friend for those times when her mind will cast about for something soothing. Best always, Lura

    • Dear Lura,
      I’m sorry you had such a harsh experience with your husband’s death, but what a gift it is to walk with your friend on her path now. I know you walk with many others, too.
      ‘Seasons of Grief and Hope’ is filled with gentle support without preaching or suggestions we get over anything. Just gentle love and beauty to soothe and normalize our grief. I hope it speaks to your friend the way it speaks to me.
      Warmly, Elaine

  10. I loved the quilts and poetry, Elaine. Such a beautiful combination of images and thoughts. It’s truly amazing how we each find our own ways to walk with grief.

    • I agree, Robin. I made contact with Monique and her work on LinkedIn, so it’s also interesting how we find each other. I’m looking forward to your book.
      Love,
      Elaine

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