Life is Messy. So is Grief.

I was the final note in the quartet of children that made up the siblings in our family. Growing up, I often felt like the cymbals. Clashing and clanging at odd moments while everyone else knew their part off by heart, chiming in appropriately, hitting their notes, playing in harmony.

Today, only my sisters and I remain of the original band. My daughters and two nieces now carry the tune. While the notes between the sister-pairs are strong, the notes between the cousins are far apart and barely audible. Since my brother and sister-in-law’s tragic deaths over twenty years ago, my nieces have had little contact with any of us. The drama and turmoil of those days leading up to and following their parents’ deaths were incomprehensible for an 18 and 19-year-old. As my brother and mother had an argument shortly before the events unfolded, and my mother was inconsolable in her grief, they chose to distance themselves from all of us. The distance was never closed.

Losing her son was a heavy loss for my mother. Losing her connection with her first-born granddaughters was a loss that weighed heavily on her heart for the rest of her life.

Yesterday, to find balance and calm in a day that while significant in terms of the calendar, was still just another day, I headed into my studio to create.

I have always believed it is the gift of Love that brings us into this world and love that carries us out. All we can leave behind is that which carries us in, through and out of life – Love.

We, the ones left behind on this earthly plane have a choice, to pick up the remains of pain and turmoil or follow the path of love.

I am grateful for my practice of art journaling. For its grace and reflective space and healing arts. It holds me steady on the path of love.

In this page, the six roses represent our original family — My mother, father, brother, two sisters and me.

The five birds flying together represent my sisters and me and my two daughters. The two little birds just coming out of the rose on the left are my two grandchildren.

In the middle, flying separately in a misty sky, are my nieces and grand-nephew. The flowers at the bottom represent La Grande Famille growing wild and free and loving all around the world.

No matter if we spend time together or how far apart our stories, we are always connected through this circle of love that is our family.

As I finished the page, the words came to me, “In the garden of your life let love grow wild and free.”


I also created another page yesterday (I use another journal alongside me as I paint to wipe off excess paints).

As I wiped off paint and held myself lovingly within the harmony and the discordant notes of family, I knew this page was about not fitting into a box, but living in the messy of life. Something that spoke to all my emotions on this day.

I wasn’t sure what I was feeling/expressing until I finished and then sat down to write in my journal what creating this page brought up for me. And that’s when I understood…

Grief is Messy…

Grief Is Messy
 by Louise Gallagher
 Grief is messy.
 It follows no well-known path
 travelling to the beat
 of its own drum
 and pushing through boundaries
 you desperately put in place
 to keep its presence at bay.
 Grief is stealthy
 It dresses up in familiar clothing
 masquerading as your best friend
 while its steals your identity
 encroaching on the spaces
 of your heart
 you want desperately to avoid
 There is no taming grief.
 There is only its heavy cloak
 of companionship
 wearing you down
 until one day
 you find yourself arriving at that place
 where moments spent wrapped
 in grief’s company
 die away
 as softly as the sweet melody
 of the voice
 of the one who is gone
 fades into memory. 

23 thoughts on “Life is Messy. So is Grief.

  1. Life is filled with contradictions and the unexplained. Grief and Love are just two of the many parts of the whole. Walking the path can be very difficult at times. Every so often one needs a quiet moment to stop, rest, reflect, heal bruised hearts and in so doing one can continue the journey. Best Regards.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is that Tino — messy and estrangement makes it feel even messier. When my daughters were younger they would often ask me to reach out to their cousins as they missed them — and they are their only cousins. I told them we must always reach out as long as we do it within the truth that other has the right to respond or not. It has nothing to do with love. It is always about where they’re at – their pain, hurt, confusion. And so… I still occasionally reach out and leave it to them how they respond. Hugs and thank you for your presence.


  2. Life is equally messy and utterly beautiful. It’s what we see in it that makes it rather messy or rather beautiful. I am thankful to be able to put the messy, frustrating, disappointing behind me and to forget it even, but I want to keep and cherish the beautiful forever – it’s all about love isn’t it?!
    Beautiful compo with all the ‘little happenings’ well explained. Hugs from afar.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember a story from the Zhuang Zi. Someone dies and an old man in his tent starts banging on his tin plate in grief. This is the wise man who is supposed to be above it all. The banging begins to bother others who go to check on him. They ask the old man, hey aren’t you the wise man, how much longer are you going to bang on that pan. The old man says I feel it as long as I need to feel it and when I don’t feel it anymore I’ll stop banging on the pan. (a paraphrase of the story but I think you get the point.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Louise, I love following your thoughts and emotions on grief and love. On life!
    The day loss comes too easy to us we do not fully live. Parts of our hearts are torn and
    lost. So much might be part of this person.
    These very same losses can at times become a strength as you feel their love within you.

    Wonderful and loving work you have given.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooohhh. Miriam — your words are ringing in my heart with their beautiful light of truth and love!
      I am grateful. As I’m sure you know, one of the greatest gifts a writer/artist can receive is the gift of being seen and heard and the knowing that in that being seen and heard, their words/art resonates with another’s heart.
      Thank you for that gift. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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