Growing Strong in the Broken Places

Can we imagine becoming stronger in our broken places?  There’s a tradition in Japanese pottery called Kintsugi, where a broken pot is restored through a type of gold joinery.  Potters cherish seeing the imperfections as a creative addition, making a pot more gorgeous and more precious than before it was fractured.  When something has suffered damage and has a history, they assert it becomes more beautiful, even giving rebirth to the bowl’s life story.

I first heard of this shortly after our daughter died through writings of the poet, Mark Doty.  He describes the ancient Japanese ceramic cups, once the property of some holy monk.  Centuries later, a cup was dropped and broken, but even in this condition it was too beautiful to simply destroy.  So it was repaired, not with glue, which wouldn’t hold for centuries to come, but with a seam of gold solder repairing the break in what could never be repaired perfectly.  The gold solder added a beauty to the cup, making part of it quite visible.

Rebirth of a Broken Pot       with thanks to potter

Rebirth of a Broken Pot
with thanks to potter


Doty writes, “The metaphor offers the possibility to ‘honor the part of oneself that’s irreparable-to fill the crack with gold means to give the break prominence, to let it shine.  Wearing its history, the old cup with its gilt scars becomes, I imagine, a treasure of another sort, whole in its own fragmentation, more deeply itself, veined with the evidence of time.”


Dick Lehman pottery

dick lehman pottery

Dick Lehman pottery

I found this story and image held healing power.  I was so moved by it that my husband surprised me on my birthday that year by giving me a picture of Krista from high school inside a stone frame with golden veins.  It always reminds me that if we can keep our hearts open to love and grace after profound loss, enduring strength finds space to come forth from our broken places.

Image 1

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Pilgrimage (54 Posts)

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child offers encouragement and information for other parents living in the long season of sorrow. Drawn from interviews from mothers and fathers on their grief journey, plus Linda Lawrence Hunt's memoir of their family's loss, it also includes recent research on grief, resilience, and creative healing.

5 Responses to Growing Strong in the Broken Places

  • Thank you for these wonderful pictures of a restore cup that becomes more beautiful as the repair in made with a gold vein. I’ve appreciated your writing and bringing together these stories of resilience. It’s a reminder of your spirit and it gives me delight.

  • Where exactly did you actually pick up the points to compose
    ““Growing Strong in the Broken Places | Pilgrimage through LossPilgrimage through
    Loss”? Thanks for the post ,Nilda

    • Hi Heather,

      I composed this from a composition of ideas. Aaron, our daughter’s husband, received a condolence letter that first shared Mark Doty’s metaphor….I think from his book Heaven’s Coast. Then I found the photographs on Google Images and contacted the photographer who gave me permission to publish them. He also wrote about the Japanese concept of broken bowls being more beautiful after repaired. You can go to his website listed under his pottery picture and read more, some of which he learned while studying in Japan. Thanks for your question!

  • Hi Linda:

    I have heard of being made stronger in the broken places and being refined by fire, but being made more beautiful is a better description of what actually happens. Thanks for sharing this idea…good to contemplate as we all reflect on our own lives. Catherine

    • Hi Catherine,
      Welcome to the pilgrimage! Aaron (Krista’s husband),Jim and I received a letter with Mark Doty’s image just as we were flying down to Bolivia to meet the people Krista worked alongside. We wanted to see the land she was beginning to love, and to help Aaron close up their little adobe home. We found it a very meaningful image because we all live with some places of hurt and have been inspired by many who find a way to create beauty in their midst of loss.

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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
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Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot. BOLD SPIRIT: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America introduces readers to this fascinating journey of an audacious act of courage and love of a mother trying to save a family farm.

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer)

+ Compassionate Friends

+ First Candle: Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS)

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths