Grief Pearls

The precious peony flower is a time capsule, albeit a very brief one. Our life plots are time capsules bonding one generation to the next in interdependence. Ojibwe environmentalist Winona LaDuke understands interdependence: “What we have is because someone stood up before us. What our Seventh Generation will have will be a consequence of our actions today.”

“What is it that you DO with your time?” Lin-Manuel Miranda told his interviewer, Willie Geist, that his synopsis of his famous Broadway hit, Hamilton, revolved around this question. It is an everyday question for ALL of us. Actions make differences.

I admit that I have spent much unskillful time focused on recent news of the day, although I am turning more to PBS for what I call “wholesome TV.” I love PBS’s Classical Stretch at 7:00 AM on weekdays with former Canadian ballerina Miranda Esmonde-White. Exercising to classical music (with sunny views of an ocean backdrop) involves present-moment aliveness. With the morning weather turning warmer, my AM habit now intersperses mornings of Tai Chi in a local park with others where I enjoy swaying like a peony in the breeze. Since April, 2020, I join with 40-50 others in an everyday meditation group for 20 minutes of meditation time — another “wholesome” action. I celebrate our time-capsule minutes.

After my mother died in February, I joined an online writing class with Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and found much of my writing to Natalie’s prompts were connected to grieving. This was no surprise to me. What did surprise me was how frequently others wrote about loss. Did the pandemic loosen our collective psyches on grieving? The staggering one-million-death mark can make one take notice of grief.

Our culture is not welcoming of grief-talk. People may ask you, “How are you doing?” although long drawn-out remarks rarely are encouraged. Often it is in the drawn-out remarking (or writing) that healing from loss scabs can layer up. The past few months of the Russian-Ukrainian tragedy and the past few weeks of one U.S. mass shooting after another leaves massive scarring; many are dumbfounded with grief.

Perhaps we need more non-verbal grieving rituals like those in ancient Greece. The Greek people used hair in grieving symbolism: hair might be cut or burned by mourners with the locks of the deceased hung by doorways. People have an interdependent need for others to witness their grieving. I am wearing my mother’s butterfly jewelry.

When I share thoughts on my mind, it may prod another to open up to slightly different thinking. Others’ feedback (often privately off-line) then carries my thinking forward. This is how interdependence is strung in present-time.

Precious peonies both grieve the loss of petals                                                                           and celebrate springtime                                                                     with meditative calmness and joy,                                   as grieving and celebrating are interdependent pearls in the time-capsule of life.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

88. What is it, exactly, that you do with your daily time?

89. What actions would you like to add to your week?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. A lot of my time is spent in the garden. It brings me close to my family roots. Oh there are many roots that I also pull out! I often wear one of Dad’s long sleeve casual shirts, to keep the sun rays off but to also channel his love of the earth. My mother hummed a lot while she worked. I think of her and like to hum too. It makes me feel at peace. I like to be around small groups of people and discuss important issues of the day. But I don’t handle confrontation well and avoid a lot of people that I would like to actually have a good discussion with but can’t seem to keep the discussion at reasonable peaceful level. Just Simple acts of kindness seems to work better for me when I figure their mind is set in cement!


  2. I love how you honor the legacy blessings of your parents in the garden and by humming! What wonderful gifts they gave you!
    You point out how challenging it is to listen to other viewpoints when they counter our own — which we deem as “rational” thinking. All of us need to become better at listening, to understand that each person is speaking from just a part of who they really are…perhaps they are speaking from a legacy of burdens from their parents and grandparents.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: