I have been sitting on these photographs for a month now, trying to find words to attach to them.
It seems as though every time I have tried to write, I just find myself hitting the backspace and starting over. Over and over and over again.
Sometimes it can feel rare to find the hurt you’re carrying echoed in another. Ariana and I met for a couple of hours over coffee while she was in town after not seeing one another for nearly two years. We hardly needed to catch up because within minutes, we discovered that although by way of starkly different circumstances, we were both in a place of grieving.
Grieving feels like a heavy word.
It is often associated with death.
But I am convinced, that you won’t live a long life and die one day without already experiencing death a hundred times before.
I am not talking about physical death.
Sometimes, you meet the death of something inside of you.
These may be the dreams that never took root, love that couldn’t last, seasons of life passing as quickly as they came.
As for me, I have felt this more deeply this year than any other. Last December my grandfather passed away and with him, an era of my life and upbringing that I will never have again. Since then, I feel as though I have been facing a series of things dying in me. The kind of grieving I have found myself in I can’t even place on one sole event, place, or person. My Mom said to me, “Sarah at this age, you’re life is unfolding in sweet seasons, but they do pass quickly”. For months, I have felt as though the fabric holding this heart together has been fraying at its edges and unravelling me with it. I think the time you have to live in the tension between loss and all that is yet to come can be disheartening, isolating, and even numbing. Though in the midst of it all, I have held to the promise of resurrection.
That is the beautiful thing about things dying in you.
Just like the wild flowers, old things die, so new things can grow up from their soil.
The truth is, you can’t wish winter away. It comes, and you have to face it. I feel this deeply today as the snow is blanketing the ground outside my window. You have to be in this place of clinging to hope when it doesn’t seem present. I have been learning what it means to sit with myself, to grieve well, to not dismiss my own emotions, and to not allow myself to suffer in my natural tendency to withdraw, to understand that you don’t have to fully move on before you can move forward.
These photographs are an expression of all of this. Ariana came to the studio hours after I first got the keys to it. We tore the blank pages out of one of my journals and began writing. We had no objective, no expectations. We just wrote. We filled nearly every page with words. Naturally, we were both crying as a side effect. It just happened. The least natural thing to do would be to pull out a camera, but we had decided that whatever this morning became, we were going to capture it. Call us “weird, moody, artists girls”, but quite honestly, we didn’t spend a penny on some of the best therapy out there.
The photographs could easily be misunderstood or dismissed as “misery loves company”, but that is truly missing the point. These photographs are an expression of humanness, in one of its rawest forms. In the simplest way, they are a reminder that grieving is vital for the heart. For all of the times we have told ourselves not to cry, to just “get over it”, we strip our hearts of their softness. I am confident that it is better to have a heart that hurts than a heart that is hard.
You have to feel so you can heal.
Let yourself, my friend.
And don’t you lose that heart of yours. The spring is on its way.