Time to Heal

Winter is the time most people choose to spend with friends and family. And although many of us don’t need an excuse to spend it with the ones we love, it helps us slow down and reminds us how valuable the time is that we have with our loved ones. For many, the holiday season also serves as a reminder of the ones who are no longer with us physically. But just because they aren’t here physically, doesn’t mean their spirits aren’t with us.

The reason I write this is because a person I was close to passed on, and it hit me harder than usual. I know many who also struggle with the passing of a loved one. There are many ways different cultures interpret and teach about death. As a child, I was taught that death is a journey every person must endure in their life. And while I understand the concept, it didn’t make the process any easier, at least not in the beginning. But the teachings of my family allowed me to be more open with my emotions regarding death.

Growing up, I was taught that the butterflies were the keepers of the souls; that they were one of the ways our loved ones stayed and watched over us after they were gone. When my friend passed, I repressed it in the beginning. I tried to make peace with the fact that they were no longer here, but I couldn’t find a justification for why the universe took them away. I was on campus at the time. I became upset, so I went outside to the dance circle and just sat. After about five minutes of sitting outside, I got up and was going to make my way inside. But before I did, a butterfly flew in front of me. Remembering what I was taught, I felt relief and knew it was okay and that they were okay. And it was that moment that allowed me to find peace at a time when I felt like there was none.

All humans process and cope with death differently, and it’s not up to someone else to assess the time it will take for you to deal with the passing of a loved one. So this winter, take all the time you need. Honor them the way you see fit and cherish those you can still hold. My heart is with all who have lost someone they know. And look out for those butterflies in your life that watch over you, whatever they may look like.

Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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