When someone dies, we lose a part of ourselves. It is not until much later we come to realize that we also find a part of ourselves through the experience.
On March 16, 1987 my family suffered a great loss - my father, my brother and my maternal uncle were drowned while hunting seabirds close to the lighthouse where I was raised in Newfoundland, Canada.
It was an incredible blow not just to our family, but also everyone in our small community of approximately 125 people. To lose three young men so suddenly was a shock that was felt in the entire region.
We had no answers, no clues as to what happened that cold and blustery morning. They simply did not come back. It would take over a week for the body of my uncle to be recovered. The remains of my father and brother were never found.
For days and weeks on end it seemed we struggled just to get through each day. We were Lost, with a capital "L". Our world had been turned upside down and we didn't know how to put things right again.
Over the coming months, years and even decades now, we have all coped with the loss in our own ways. It has not been easy, but thankfully we are all still here putting our feet on the floor every morning.
When something as sudden as this happens, one wonders how to survive in a world that looks and feels so different. The loss is an extreme weight to carry each day. It becomes a cloak you put on every morning when your eyes open. Many times and in many ways, that weight broke our backs, but we got up and did it again.
Along with the loss, we discovered a strength we did not know we had. Where did it come from? Did we always have it? Or was it born out of this tragedy? All good questions, and very complicated ones to answer.
Some rely on faith to pull them through; others although fearful of the darkness, somehow keep leaning towards the light of another day; and still others get through on a combination of both. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve. There is just time, and it continues.... next day, next day, next day.
Over the years, my mother, sister and I as well as my uncle's wife and 4 children have found the strength to live and in fact thrive. Our loved ones are never far from memory, especially today. I feel that it is because of them rather than in spite of what happened to them, that we found the strength to get through.
The dead do not want us to stop living just because they did. It doesn't feel like that at first. It takes some time to come to the realization that the pain of loss can and indeed does lead to strength.
Within and throughout loss, one can find their true strength. It takes effort, but this is where the focus should be - on strength, not on the suffering or loss.
It is only through the experience of being lost, that we can find our true selves.
I've been painting a lot of abstract seascapes lately. Make no wonder I suppose. It has become a new way for me to honour their memory.
The above painting "Lost and Found" was created today while thinking about those three beautiful souls and what losing them has meant for my life.
I believe they are still with me in spirit. I feel my father in particular especially when I paint. He gives me courage and strength to find more ways to BE myself and to share that authentic self with the world.
I know he would be happy that I have found this new way to express my inner world........ and that's enough to make me want to keep doing it.