Brave Soul · Grief & Loss

The Wisdom of Hope, Renewal & A New Start

A Reflection From This Week

One morning this week, I walked out the front door to see a favorite tree that had fallen on the house.

My eyes welled up with tears as I felt the shattering and longing for some of my favorite memories in the front yard of my family’s Portland home.

You see, while my dad was sick, we used to sit on a bench that looked out across the yard at this very tree.

So many summer afternoons spent talking and laughing with him, and learning, what I didn’t realize at the time, was a lesson in the power of presence.

We used to sit in awe of the way the sunlight hit the water droplets flying up through the air from the sprinklers in a way that made them sparkle and dance through the sky.

The quaking aspen stood in the background with a generosity and beauty about her. She helped to ground the scene. And added to the beauty of each moment — her soft leaves fluttering in the breeze.

I’d also known for a long time that this was one of my mom’s favorite trees, for this very reason.

Watching the leaves flutter in the breeze, watching them dance with hope and joy, gives us permission to do the same — to trust the same wisdom, and hope and joy within us.

It grounds us in the present moment, and allows us to spring forth rooted in something that cannot be seen but only felt in the quiet and most tender, sacred places of our being.

It is a truth so deep that only nature has arms long enough to reach.

Maybe the branches of that tree, with the leaves dancing in the breeze, was actually just a way of returning home to myself, in a way I hadn’t come to fully recognize yet.

It had a unique and sparkling way of aligning me with the truest sense of myself: the self that has no words.

It’s one of the few things in the world that can help point you to an experience, without you even noticing. That’s how good it is. That’s how magnificent of a gift it brings.

It stirs the heart and soothes the soul in ways that Netflix movies or comfort food can only dream about but never provide.

For a long time now I’ve been amazed by the way the beauty we see in nature helps us to find and see greater beauty and love within ourselves.

And when a special part of nature — like a tree, a bird, a forest creature, flower, or plant is lost to us, it can tug at some of those deepest places within our hearts.

The moments. The memories. The freedom, the joy, and the love. All rolled into one.

As I stood there, I allowed myself a few minutes to stand with the tree and cry. Images of my dad and me sitting on the bench floated through my mind, all the memories of looking up at that tree, and a very real felt sense in my body of the sadness its loss brings.

The rest of the day I found my mind wandering back to that tree.

And later that night while meditating, I had a sense that the tree had somehow lived its purpose. That by helping to guide me, and those close to me, to the homes inside our hearts, she had been set free. 

She had done all that she came here to be.

And the lesson, too, that sometimes, the greatest thing we can ever do, is be.

The gift is in who we are, and who we’re becoming. And the far-reaching affects that can have on those around us.

Like one little leaf traveling through the breeze, with the hope and freedom to soar, and with it, bring to life a brand new tree.

By this morning, when the work crew arrived to cut down the tree, I was ready.

And this surprised me.

I’ve had so many experiences before where the wrecking all comes in at once. The turmoil, the grief, the pain, all mashed together.

But this time, I allowed myself to grieve. I allowed myself to feel all that this tree meant to me.

I allowed myself to say goodbye, and to honor the gifts that she brought me.

So that by today I was ready honor her, by freely letting her go. And knowing that she’d been loved, and that I am loved in return.

There’s this strange magic that happens when we allow ourselves to feel the feelings that flow through us. When we honor ourselves and our experience enough to acknowledge them and let the tears flow.

I can still remember a hospice worker who once said that when you sit with an emotion and feel it and allow it to flow through you, then it flows through and can actually move through rather quickly.

As a twenty-something who had just lost my dad, I thought this was complete poppycock. She just didn’t understand, I remember thinking to myself.

And it wasn’t just what she said, but the way she said it.

I can, now — many years, and a chronic illness, and a life coach training program later — see the wisdom in her words. But I will never forget the way I felt — and the way her words seemed to dismiss and undermine the complexity and depth of my feelings.

So I don’t say any of this today to undermine your feelings. I offer this reflection because of the joy it brings me to see the beauty in the process. The process of healing can be vast — it can take time, and it can also happen in an instant.

In some ways it’s very simple — but simple does not mean that it is easy.

It takes courage. LOTS of it.

More courage than some of us have to offer in a given moment — but when we do, ahhhh, that’s when the magic surfaces and the sun can begin to rise.

They say, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Well, what if we saw every bit of darkness as an opportunity for a rising sun.

If pain became a beacon of hope, of light — to come and rescue us from the turmoil that can feel so often unrelenting.

We are free to choose the way we want to respond to the pain in our lives. And I’ll be the first to admit that I at times fall down the rabbit hole of choosing unhealthy behaviors to cope with the challenges that life brings.

But this week, and this tree — this holy, magnificent and altogether splendid tree — reminded me that it’s okay to grieve.

It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to allow those feelings to flow, and allow the grief to flow out your eyes with longing or anguish or anything you may feel.

And when we allow it out, we can ask for healing. And with the healing, comes new space — space for the sun to rise.

And before you know it, you’re watching the miracle of a new idea being born, or a new feeling of hope blossoming within yourself — a brand new start.

I’ve always been amazed by the power of writing or or even just talking things through for this too. It seems like pure magic or dumb luck, but every time I start out writing or talking about (and acknowledging) the terrible thing, it’s as if the awareness is a flashlight that allows it to receive moonbeams of love from Heaven that allow it to fully shine. And when it begins to shine, the old falls away and it makes space for something new.

Like I mentioned above — a new idea, a new solution, a new feeling or different approach. And whatever it is, it is usually BEAUTIFUL — and so much better than you ever could have imagined when you were standing back on the other side of the grief, or anger, or fear — whatever you were feeling.

So whatever YOU are feeling this week, and whatever trees (literal or metaphorical) that have fallen down in your own life, calling you into the pain so that you can be ushered into a brand new beginning, know that I’m sending you tremendous compassion, love, and healing grace.

You are brave.

And I’m so proud of you. And you know what? I think I’m proud of me too.

With infinite love & grace,

Caitlin

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