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Posts tagged ‘safety’

The Promise

portrait_week41

A lot has happened in the past few months. I have fallen in love again, for the first time since my fiancé died. The growth of this new relationship has brought about unbelievable new joys as well as painful new layers of grief. One of the hardest things has been mourning the life I had planned with someone else. Deciding to begin a life with someone new has me feeling that pain sharply. And now, a more physical representation of that is about to occur. After 8 months of living 1400 miles apart, I’ve decided to move closer to the man I love (and his lovely daughter) and explore a whole new life. Starting a new direction though comes with goodbyes too.

I have been waiting for this day for some time… wondering when it would come. Knowing one day I would be ready to take flight once more. I’ve been stuck creatively for months now, unable to communicate my feelings into images. I hate when this happens… but it seems to always occur whenever big shifts come. I’ll sit stuck for weeks or months even, until suddenly one day, the fog just lifts, and I realize with such clarity what’s next. This happened a few weeks ago, while journaling. I suddenly realized that the next part of the story is about goodbyes, and that I needed to photograph the nest. Not the human-sized nest I shot for Sanctuary, no, but the one that was the very inspiration for that iconic photograph. This is the nest I found at the cemetery just weeks before shooting Sanctuary. It had fallen from the tree over my fiance’s grave site and landed right next to his headstone. That same week, I’d watched an inspiring documentary about Anne Geddes in which she reclaimed her inspiration by photographing bird’s nests. The next week I also watched a presentation on grief in which the speaker talked about losing your sense of home when your spouse or partner dies. The connection was so clear. It wasn’t long before the full concept for Sanctuary began to form.

After all this time, the little nest that inspired that photograph has been sitting in my office on the shelf. Never did I think of photographing the original nest itself. It didn’t fit the story, until now.

Slowly, without realizing it, I have become larger, stronger, and more capable over the past year. I have outgrown the nest that once surrounded me. It was not until recently that I saw it. Just suddenly, with the talk of moving. Moving far away from where my parents and my fiance rest. Far away from cactus and cowboys and the friendships and family I’ve known for years. Despite the fears and worries of such an immense change… I can feel it in my bones… it is time. Time to take flight and to trust my own wings to carry me to new lands. Time to believe that the unknowns out there will be beautiful, and exciting, and full of wonder. Time to build a sanctuary someplace new, one with room to grow.

I’ve been readying my heart to cut loose enough to catch the wind. Preparing to make a promise… to myself, and to everything and everyone that has gotten me this far. A promise to honor not only life but also death. To not abandon the nest which grew me in these years of my deepest grief, but instead to carry it with me and keep it safely within the space of the new sanctuary I will build. To hold it close to me always and to never forget all the love that has brought me here. The love of so many… all of it woven so warmly around my broken bones these fragile years.

My wings are ready. It’s time to fly.

Week 11 // Sanctuary

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When you lose a parter, you lose your sanctuary in a very real way. The person you used to go to with your most vulnerable feelings, daily stresses, irrational fears, crazy hopes, ridiculous doubts and horrible secrets is no longer there. You have lost your home and all the safety, warmth and encouragement that came with it. I personally don’t think there is any more debilitating trauma than to lose our sanctuary – whether it be a parent, partner, child, sibling, or best friend.

For my fiancé and I, our home was very much each other. We were deeply bonded. The space between us was sacred – a sanctuary where each of us was protected, loved, and accepted above all else. This was the core of what we shared, and in this, we were home. Nothing has ever made me feel as vulnerable, lost, scared, sad, hopeless, tired and in danger as losing the sanctuary we so carefully and lovingly built together.

I once read a quote that said “The thing with feelings, is to make it safe to feel them all”, and that is what a sanctuary is for. A large part of this “after” life now is about learning to recreate this space in a new way. As it turns out, building the nest for this image was just as powerful as the end moments of laying down inside the curves of it. I was reminded that a sanctuary must be created – piece by piece. That it takes times, and that one must carefully select only the most loving people, encouraging thoughts, and inspiring things to build it with.

Even though my sanctuary now is very different from the one he and I built together, parts of him still surround me there… and it is still the place where all of me is safe and nurtured. For me, this image is a reminder for those times when I am impatient with myself or I begin to feel lost, angry, or scared. In those moments, I am learning now to step back into the gentle womb of my new sanctuary, breathe deep, and allow myself to rest safety until I am restored.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series about living on after loss. If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

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