Tree Rings, a Heart, and Grief ~ Change after Suicide Loss


~O tender heart, with your mosaic, root your wisdom and let it be~

In her beautiful starlit way, she came into the garage and shyly peeked her head around. Her uncertainty, her innocent curiosity, and her amazing bravery are what struck me.  This beautiful young fifteen-year-old was ready to beckon the scene of her father’s death, and she was doing so with what only grace could give–moving within the humility of the unknown. She looked at me, and then looked at the floor and found the flowers. I came to her and as her eyes glistened we sat down on the garage concrete and I just held her and rocked her– and for the first time “our” beautiful daughter had just become “my” beautiful daughter and she and I moved into a new unity as we sat in the freshness of his death.

The poignancy of that moment became a makeshift memorial. We sat there, eyes staring, caroused in a daze, looking at a now stain-washed floor with a vase of flowers placed there days before. My sister came and quietly brought us what she thought we might need and what she could find– sage, rose quartz, candles, soothing music. We positioned things and lit a candle for each of us–Moms, Pops, and the Kid–and as we did, the room shifted and the moment became frozen.  Everything in and of and around us became suspended in the molecules of time and space, congealed in the breadth of life inside and outside of our physical existence– and as a collective state of being, a creative force took prominence about us and we were opened to our understanding of what would happen next…

~a gift of perpetual understanding memorialized at his place of death~

In a wisp of a moment, as if breath had swept through the garage, a heart was etched in the concrete next to his candle and on the very spot he died.  As we rubbed the area to make sure it was not dirt or a smudge of something to be wiped away, it sunk in that a great gift of perpetual understanding had just memorialized at his place of death; and my daughter’s father had found a way to say goodbye– symbolizing the universal words we, as a family, had always shared at our daily partings… “always in my heart”.

Over the years, the heme stained mosaic of concrete, and the years of dust and dirt have made the heart more pronounced. Its prevalence is undeniable in my life and like a tree that undergoes the seasons of change, so has the heart and my relationship with it.

Every day for the last three years I have walked over, on, around my partner’s heart to get to my car in the garage.  Every day a menagerie of emotions and resolve–a divinity of place and time, and supplication.  There have been days where I stand dazed in the garage with that heart, days where I sit in the garage close to the heart in comfort, days where I am indifferent and want nothing from the heart or the garage, and days where the garage is inconsequential as if that is all the garage is–just the garage.  But every day, it never escapes me, that something holy occurred in that spot and with that heart; and every day regardless of how I pass by, there is a reverence that always wells from deep within me and from deep within that spot as I move past that undeniable hallow ground.

~body memory triggered at this crossroads of change~

Today, in short time, another season of change will come as my daughter and I will be moving to a new home with a “new” garage–something we have both felt we have needed to do, and have talked expectedly, waiting in readiness for it.

But with this new season, I find my readiness is pressing and leaning hard into that tree of change, looking for its grounding nature to well up from its roots and keep me upright and moving forward–as unexpectedly, from within my body of a depth I can’t place, has come a sudden and unforeseen emotional surge of anxiety and grief–body memory that still carries the shocking trauma of it all surfaced up and out, triggered at this crossroads of change.

I am always amazed at grief…

At the different places for it and the different levels of it. I am amazed at where it stores itself and how even years later, after moving through a mix of theurgical and emotional mystery, the freshness of grief can reoccur in a timeless moment–memory–still carried in our bodies– triggered to bring forth the still broken parts of us and the true ache that recalls all of the experience in all of its intensity.

I am always amazed at grief…

Of the creative and artistic nature that somehow brings it into an unspoken maturation of sacred form and emotion. That from it we find the art in the trauma and the poetry in the mourning, the virtue in the misery of that now loneliness which replaced the everyday companion–once in physical form, then in spiritual form, and for me, always available as a reflection in the contour of a heart in my garage.

  ~we find the art in the trauma and the poetry in the mourning~

I look at this time like the annual rings found in a tree, the shape and width and years of weathered endurance all unique and telling in genuflection and experience– the truth and times of life change. I see my layers of resolve gradually move through the tree trunk, out to the branches and branch tips coming to nature’s light and budding new life amongst the season of heal– making a small bloom into the shape of a leaf reflective of my need and holding on in color and shape until the seasons change again.  Then leaf letting go and falling to the ground below to “let it be” and blend into the soil around the root of its mother trunk only to be absorbed back up in nutrient and new cultivation again and again– each time leaving a new ring in the trunk of the tree in memorial of the era of its times and growth.

In my torment of this change, my mind wants to cut that piece of cement from the garage and take the heart with me, collect the seepage in the dirt underneath that holds my partner’s old stained blood so that I keep that aliveness with me– and continue to know that this piece of garage will always be hallow as it won’t fall to the strangers who come after. I can continue to watch over it, tend to the ground around it, or ignore it…stay in my rumination and not trust the season of change.

But instead… I will tenderly, gracefully, reverently trace my finger over the mosaic and heart one last time–creating art of it in my mind–and in that creative process, become the healing expression. The art of living, the art of transformation, the art of being my life.  And then… I will let the garage go.

So be it.

One thought on “Tree Rings, a Heart, and Grief ~ Change after Suicide Loss

  1. This is achingly beautiful, Clare. I felt as though I were there with you and your sweet daughter in that garage. I am very happy that you are moving on in every way. It will never lessen the importance of that miraculous heart. You write so beautifully. My son’s suicide was many years ago, but I am still letting go of things, still letting go of my guilt and my anger at others. I know that heart goes with you and will always be there. It does feel miraculous to me. Blessings on your move. May you create a new space that will help with your healing in the years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

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