Friday, April 12, 2013

Grief Project - Create a Place of Refuge

"Sanctuary on a personal level, is where we preform the job of taking care of the soul." 
~ Christopher Forrest McDowell  

Looking back now I realize that without knowing it, as a school aged child I had many "areas of refuge" in my life.  Growing up we lived outside of town in the country.  Our house was on four acres of land surrounded by cornfields and woods.  When I was 10 years old I used to cross the country road in front of our home and go for long walks in the forest there.  Here I would day dream, take in nature, and contemplate life with a child's mind.  I continued to find and "create areas of refuge" as I got older.  As a teenager in the summer I would climb out my bedroom window onto the roof that over-hanged the garage.  From time to time I would go up there to read, journal, or just take in the wonders of the world.  As I've become an adult, and now live in a large city, I believe I have forgotten the importance of finding and spending time in such areas of refuge.

In Healing Your Grieving Heart, Wolfet and Maloney discuss the importance of creating a personal sanctuary and state that, "you need a private territory where you can explore self-development and spiritual practices as well as read insightful books, meditate, journal, or simply contemplate the universe."  All these tasks are essential for the grieving process to unfold properly and do its healing work. 

So for the month of April I decided to find and create the sacred place in my life, that I did so naturally as a child.  I decided to use Nora's room, and one afternoon after work I rearranged her nursery.   I choose her room for many reasons, because I loved the light that flows through the room, because of the healing color of the green walls that induce feelings of relaxation and calm within me, the white decal birch trees that Nick and I so lovingly placed on the walls brings nature indoors and connects me back to my roots in nature.  The final reason I chose it was because I had spent so much time lovingly preparing her room for her that I just needed it to be used for some kind of growth.  I guess it will be used for my growth now instead of hers.  Now I go to Nora's room as not a place of mourning, although that does happen, but a place to explore my truest self.  I sit in here to meditate, to reflect on my grief.  Sometimes I write in here as well.  I found this place calming and soothing. 

The important part of this place wasn't as much about the physical place as it was about the place it took me inside my head.  In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talks about "finding a place of refuge". But she means within yourself, with your thoughts, and this is the place I found most like a sanctuary.  Inside my head it was a dream land, a fairytale place where Nora lived and we were together.  Sometimes she didn't even live, but we were together in some other way, I could feel her, and that was enough.  It was easy to create "a place of refuge" in my mind with the help of a guided visualization I would use called "A Place of Refuge a Visualization."  Other times I did not even need a prompt to help create my safe place, because it just naturally arose.  It felt peaceful. It was safe.  It was always with me.  I could carry it where ever I was because it was within me and I could find visit whenever I needed.   

I once heard a story about a POW who, in order to survive the torture of solitude from being held captive during war, played a golf game on his favorite course over and over again in his mind.  He did this so much that when he was released from capture and finally played that course again he still shot par.  Our mind and surroundings are powerful influences and tools in our healing, if we use them wisely we can use them to create a sense of peace.


A Place of Refuge a Visualization


  1. Glad you are finding a place of refuge. The trees on the wall are beautiful! We have also turned Joseph's room into a place like this, a place to read and sit and write and do art. Sending hugs to you today, Lindsey,
    Burning Eye

  2. Lindsey, thank you for writing about your loss of Nora. Thank you for sharing how you live with and transform your grief. My son (28 years old) died unexpectedly 7 years ago. I also had a refuge where I used a grief box. The box held memories and index cards in a box. Every morning I took that box to my refuge, opened it, and wept. I wrote my feelings, looked at the things I'd placed in the box. I spent an hour there, closed the box and lived my day which at the time was teaching preschool children in a Montessori school. That practice strengthened me. I still visit the box. Like you, I keep the memory of my child alive. My son lives on in my heart. My relationship with him continues to grow. I am so grateful to find you. Peace to you, Lindsey-- from Susan, a friend from BBTL.


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