Friday, March 17, 2017

#SOL17: What is Solace?

from my art journal


Solace is no resting place.

I used to think of solace as a bit of nap--a way to turn off pain by retreating from the world. In the year after Rob's death, I know that solace is more demanding, than not. And I am grateful for that.

David Whyte (2015) writes that solace "is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments."

Solace is not a nap, but rather a necessity. It is more a necessity of questioning at moments when life is less like a river flowing and more like deep, thick sludge. What we ask helps us to climb out from the depths we have sunk.


After the loss of my husband, I found myself being healed by asking aloud questions that arose through what I wrote, read, discussed, and painted.  Some were:

  • How will I bear this loss? How will I bear it today? Tomorrow? Five years from now?
  • How is loss a reflection of self? Is it mutable? Transforming?
  • How do I get Rob back? What did his life mean? How did I live with him for decades and not see all the beauty of his life while he lived?
  • Who am I without him? Where do I begin and end? How have I matured?
  • What happened to my future? Is there a future?
  • How will loss shape our son?
  • Will I be a good enough parent on my own? Will I be enough for him? 
  • Who will I lean on when our son has troubles and needs help, advice, patience?
  • What is the truer nature of love? Does it endure? 
  • How will I live brilliantly as Rob asked in this world where I know I live temporarily?

Solace is not found by evading questions and hiding away. Solace arises alongside the hard questions we pose and ponder.  Whyte concludes that "[s]olace is the beautiful, imaginative home we make where disappointment can go to be rehabilitated."

Trying to Find Home (M.A. Reilly, 2011)
I have made
and am making
that home here on this blog
and through the paint
I splatter in journals.

I am making that home
when I talk and listen
in a circle of women,
or at dinner with family
and friends.

I am making that home
each time I step
beyond comfort
and articulate
the nature of this loss.

Whyte, David. (2015). Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. Many Rivers Press. Kindle Edition.  


  1. Yu put so very much into each of your pieces. I admire your artwork and your writing. Solace is a word I haven't thought much about, and you challenged my interpretation of it to be deeper (and more harsh.) I will be thinking more and more from reading your piece today.
    A line that lingers with me personally is 'How did I live with him for decades and not see all the beauty of his life while he lived?'

    1. Thanks Fran. It's good to know the post is nudging how you think about the idea of solace. That line lingers with me too.

  2. This home is made,
    from memories
    from yearnings,
    from glimpses of what is
    yet to come;
    I unlock the door,
    unlatch the windows,
    let the night air in,
    for while it can chill me --
    right down the bone --
    it can also comfort me,
    for on the winds comes
    the unexpected, the

    --Kevin (stealing a phrase of yours to build a poem)

    1. Love this poem Kevin. The word, unlatch, is golden.

  3. One cannot prepare, yet one does try to look for ways that life can go on. My husband and I had several years to contemplate and do all we could to aid his illness, and that helped the next years when he was in a home. That was necessary survival for me, for my grown children, to do all we could to be with him, though he was not with us. I think I found solace in the everyday as much as I could, and really as I do now, looking for beauty each day, knowing that the world was going on, and that I would too, but differently. Your poem of "making a home" touches me, Mary Ann, for I really have not thought of what I'm doing like that. It is a new way to see. I've simply thought of me making a new kind of life.

    1. Linda, such wisdom in your response. This feels so important to me: "knowing that the world was going on, and that I would too, but differently." I hear acceptance. I know my life will go on. It is the differently that I wrestle with.

  4. As always, I'm challenged and inspired when I read the words you share -- solace, a home I build for rehabilitation

    1. The book I am quoting from is a jewel. I think you would appreciate it.

  5. "What we ask helps us to climb out from the depths we have sunk." I think that this exemplifies the writing art artwork you've been doing since Rob's death, Mary Ann. You have shared so much wisdom with us in your journey solace.

    1. Thank you Tara. I just joined a writing group and hope to shape what I have been writing into a memoir.

  6. Mary Ann, Maybe it is because I am new to this, but you have delved much deeper. Maybe that is what I seek in all the books I am buying and trying to read in my fragile state of concentration. Thank you for this.....I think that some of those questions certainly cross my mind, but the details of life are a bit overwhelming right now. I must be gentle. I must be patient. Thank you so much for your posts.

    1. I can barely be ember the first few months after Rob's death. It is in,y that I wrote and published on the blog that I even have a record. So much if that time I walked around in shock--not that you would know it as I also functioned, somewhat. Time, actually does matter. There's so much to accept and frankly, it on,y happens on your own timetable. I'm not there yet. Acceptance is slippery.

    2. Jerry's brother came by today and I asked him if he had gone ice fishing this season. My husband adored being nestled on the lake at the foothills of a chain of mountains. I thought maybe next year, but what I was really thinking that maybe next year Jerry will be able to this is a temporary thing. Staying in the present avoids the reality...staying in the present helps me survive. Moment by moment, I am OK, but I don't think I have accepted. Even typing the word "accepted" literally hurts my heart. I know that I am just starting my journey, but know that I am here. I understand. Sending you love.

    3. I did that a lot in the first few months. I didn't realize I was doing it, but on some level I thought he would come back. Joan Duduon calls this magical thinking

  7. Mary Ann, I see that Kevin and you exchanged poems. This post with its artwork and poetry is a treasure.


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