Broken Circle

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

The difference in the last 4-5 years of living with loss is that my husband has gone from being rocked by movies dealing with grief similar to his own, and now he can appreciate the beauty of the story.  The most recent movie we watched that dealt with grief and loss was Broken Circle Breakdown, a movie that jumps around in time but focuses on the beginning and end of one particular couple who conceive and eventually lose their child to cancer.

The beauty of the movie, for me, was in how the breakdown was illustrated, obviously written by someone who’s experienced such a loss.  There were three aspects to the story that also stuck with me:  The metaphor of the broken circle and the appearance that the circle could be mended, how the love of America mirrors the experience of dreams meeting reality, and the role the rest of nature can have in helping us cope or in helping us find the words to express what we’re experiencing.

Broken Circle

Broken Circle

Near the end of the movie the father tells the mother that the circle is broken, their daughter is dead and not coming back.  What I realized also towards the end of the movie was that, in a performance with their bluegrass band, the father in his pain was reaching out to the mother, his wife.  In her grief the mother continued to reach for the daughter they lost.  This illustrates the broken circle, yet at the same time if the mother could have found the strength to reach back toward the father, there would have been a chance the circle could have been mended through adjustment.

The parents were content as a couple when the pregnancy was discovered, but once there was a baby the couple would never be the same which is why there is an argument that you can’t go home again.  When you return you see with new eyes, expanded by your experience so nothing will or could be as it was before.

Broken Circle Dreams and RealityDreams Meet Reality

The father loved America so this foreign film had parts that were in English, including the musical performances.  There were also seemingly random clips of American media coverage of 9/11 and President George W. Bush’s veto of the stem cell research bill.  This randomness makes sense when you consider that the father loved America because he saw us as a land of dreamers, and once he accepted the pregnancy he was living the dream.  The dream turned into a dark reality with his daughter’s illness and death.  The vetoing of the stem cell bill was such a deeply personal wound for him, not only because it came from America, but because he felt science, the science that could have saved his daughter’s life, was being unnecessarily held back in the name of morality.

Solace in Nature Broken Circle Poster

Another interesting point of the story and my reaction to it had to do with the rest of nature.  I never considered the father an atheist even though he didn’t believe in life after death and railed against God with a nod toward evolution.  I don’t know why that didn’t hit me, but maybe it was because he still had faith in something even if it didn’t match that of his wife or daughter.

It was the daughter who witnessed a crow flying into a pane of glass and dying.  She picked it up and wouldn’t let it go.  The father tried to take it to throw it away, calling it ‘dirty.’  The daughter, I felt, knew she was dying or at least at Death’s door and was struggling to come to terms with it.  I felt there was a connection in how he was handling the death of the crow and how the daughter thought he would handle her death.  The father eventually had a talk with his daughter.  She told him she believed the crow was now a star and he let her believe that.

While in the hospital for treatment the father was encouraged by the daughter to tell the story of the stars.  He talked about how by the time we saw the light of the stars they were already gone; but the light didn’t stop with us.  It kept going, shining on forever.  I thought this was a brilliant way to see his child’s life, whether or not he recognized it, and could also be a fabulous way to think about the people we have lost.

Lost and Found

On a few occasions while writing this I realize that as an alternative to saying someone’s died I want to say that they are lost.  This is not in the literal sense, but that they are lost to us as we have known them.  Or, perhaps, we are lost as we deal with this change in relationship.  My idea with Living With Loss is that those who have died are still with us, just in a new way.  The daughter lost the crow but found it in the stars.  The father stayed grounded but could have found his daughter in the light of the star.  The mother lost the daughter but seemed to find her in a crow sitting outside the window.  If everyone let the other believe as they felt inclined, as the father had with the daughter, the circle could also have been born again as the mother seeing her daughter in the crow, the daughter seeing the crow (herself) as the star, and the father seeing the light of the star as living forever…

What made the father strong, what he found as he reached for the mother who kept pulling away, I cannot say.  What I do realize now is that there is amazing grace in experiencing loss and finding something new to hold onto.

In your experience with grief and loss, what have you found?  How has it changed over time?

A Big Year: Count Rather Than Kill

My husband came across a movie perfect for the topic of narrative ecopsychology.  It’s called Big Year and stars Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson.  It’s perfect because it’s a movie about embracing the rest of nature and how important those experiences can be (if you ignore a sometimes out-of-balance sense of competition).  The premise is a birding ‘competition’ meant to inspire people to count rather than kill as many birds as they can in a given timeframe.

For me the powerful aspects of this movie are not just the focus on the rest of nature but the different angles of the various stories.  In fact, in the end they literally show you pictures of all the species of birds seen during the competition.  At another point we even follow the plight of one particular hummingbird and how storms can create challenges in their regular migration patterns.  The narrator goes so far as to say ‘you can’t prepare for bad weather’ which often requires that you ‘work twice as hard to go twice as far.’

And then there is the story of the human animal…  The movie states, at one point, that ‘men never stop competing’ because if they do, like sharks who stop moving, they’ll die.  The movie shows how competitive even the experiences in nature can be, so that raises a flag for me that we must also hold the intention to balance consumption with appreciation.  It is interesting that in the end of the story I saw that those who were not completely consumed with the one goal of counting birds and also made room for connecting with other people seemed to have a richer, fuller life.

Each of the men involved are looking to do something big that year.  Owen’s character wants to set the pace and ensure no one breaks his record.  His identity is tied to that accomplishment.  It’s cost him human companionship and I’m truthfully not sure if he is having a quality outdoor experience or just a quantity counting experience.  The best part of his story is that he broke the traditional boundary and didn’t just go birding in the United States.  Nothing shifts a perspective or opens up to a deeper appreciation than doing something you’ve never done before.  It seems it is best not to not ‘just stay on the beaten path.’

Steve Martin’s character has a journey that helps him realize he can let go of the career he built for himself and still be full of life and connecting with others in more meaningful ways.  In fact, I think it takes his time in nature to fully be ready to let go of his professional life and embrace retirement.  That is why I focus on Elders in both a transitioning life phase as well as a transitioning career phase.

Jack Black’s character comes across as a nerd to his friends and a failure to his family until he tells the tale of his adventures to his ailing father.  Realizing his son’s lived more in several months than he has in a lifetime they go out together to see an owl in its natural habitat.  This is a moment where Jack comes to realize his connection to his father and his father, having finally had a great adventure, has something he can’t stop talking about.  This has me wondering if the people in our lives who constantly criticize and have very little else to say are not truly living themselves.

Something else this movie has made me think about are the different requirements for migration each bird must meet.  Some must lose weight before the journey while some must gain.  This is why, as birds or as people, we cannot judge the journey of another because we may not fully appreciate the things that are required. Think about it.  What does your migration pattern require of you?

For this to be a big year for you, what must you avoid killing and what must you count?

Honoring our HiSTORY: The Molecules of the Narrative

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

I thought it would be a great moment to stop and reflect on how and I put story and ecopsychology together.  As part of my Masters’ thesis I edited together a documentary on the Gullah Geechee people focusing on their relationship with nature.  In the months it took to pull the work together I was already exploring how important story was to the human/nature relationship (i.e. narrative ecopsychology) so I used the metaphor of water to organize my thoughts and laid out three depths of understanding and engagement.  The first level is the molecules of the narrative which suggests that by examining the story, people, and place you get a context that could reveal the soul of the experience.

They tried to break my will by taking me from my family.

They tried to think that they could take what God had given unto me.

But they only rooted me deeper in the spirit you see. 

The People

The Gullah Geechee are slave descendants.  The Gullah, said to come from Angola, have maintained much of their language and spiritual practices.  The Geechee, who dealt more with outsiders, developed a bridge language in order to be understood.  As a people they were prized because, according to some members of the Gullah Geechee Nation, their genius allowed them to produce ‘greater than the great work of the Pyramid of Egypt,’ their physical ability allowed them to ‘plot the sky with their naked eye,’ and their skill with the trinity of cotton, rice, and indigo made them ideal to work the fields.

The Story

The story of slavery is what ties the Gullah Geechee to Liverpool, England where the slave ships were built; West Africa where their ancestors were loaded as ‘black cargo;’ and the United States where they were put to work.

The Place

The Gullah Geechee reside anywhere between North Carolina and Florida on the Sea Islands.  The Sea Islands act as barrier islands to protect the mainland United States but, because of the limited access, also served to protect those who inhabited the island from outside interference.

Look at your family’s relationship with nature.  What insights are revealed when you look at the people (or culture) involved, the places involved, and the stories that are being told?  If you’d like to explore this together, register for my coaching seminar Learning to Love.

Nature is an Inspiration

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

I wanted to share with you my insights from goal setting last year.  The rest of nature is not only a mirror but an inspiration.  In sharing with others how I set up my New Year’s resolutions for goal achievement I shared how the ancient Egyptian calendar shifted my perspective.

✯ Circle of Seasons


Without the metaphor of the calendar and the understanding of another life experience I would have been lost at the end of 2012.  There are times when I felt as though life…the universe…was not on the same page.  I was feeling pulled to do other things than what I knew, which was establish and build Sacred Time as an ecopsychology-based coaching practice.  Life was not coming together to support that vision but I knew that to be my purpose.  In laying out my goals for 2013 I used the ancient Egyptian calendar as an organizing metaphor.  During Inundation, that time when I was feeling resistance in my efforts like the farmers when the Nile overflowed its banks, I had to find other work.  Now I know that this can be the time for me to write.


Emergence is a beautiful time.  This is not only when the farmers could do the work they were called to do, but I see this as Spring… as emerging from hibernation…from being stuck…from breaking through the soil to be seen.  Breaking through.

Lotus Season in Ha Noi, Viet Nam

So many times the work we do can be so much and for so long that the first sign of rest…or of progress…or of seeing our results can be euphoric.  This has me considering another process as I realize sometimes you have to break down before you can break through.  Another interesting thought is the work of rest, of hibernating, and how necessary it is.  Perhaps that is the breaking down of the self, the routine, the schedule so that you can be renewed…reborn…emerge.


Harvest season was hard for me as I am not literally a farmer and have not been around farming.  As I thought about how much time there was to wait and maintain the crops that were to be harvested I had to contend with the shift in activity and energy.

Season of Harvest

Weeding and pruning is not a favorite thing for my husband in his garden and it is not a favorite thing of mine when it comes to my life.  Then there is the victory of gathering the results of your work and the sweet celebration of your life (before you have to do it all again for another year).

What in the rest of nature inspires you to live a fuller life in 2014?

Roar of Confidence

In a talk about tattoos someone showed me their image of tiger eyes looking through a butterfly shape.  Metaphors and imagery is a great way to remember and visualize your goals.  I wanted to reinvigorate my confidence in a new project so I held the intention to find an animal to represent my confidence and I went about my day.  In a moment I was sitting at my desk when I remembered that stunning tiger tattoo and suddenly I heard “you’re gonna hear me roar” playing on the radio in my mind.  The song was written by Katy Perry but I LOVE Olivia Henken’s version.   Suddenly I knew my confidence would be represented by Tiger and Tiger would “lead the way that I may know how to go confidently through my life.”

As if that were not enough to convince me that I had found my guide someone walked by me singing Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, my husband always tells me to ‘go get ‘em tiger’ when I leave for the day, and tiger is my sign in Chinese astrology.  It remains to be seen what will become of my next journey but what a delightful way to be called into a new adventure. 

Think of one thing you want to work on or address in the coming weeks.  What image best represents who you are and who you want to be?

Storms of Life: Death and Movement

At this, the final stage of the storm, there is dissipation.  The winds die down and either move on or cease.  There can still be wind, rain, and clouds, but this is not necessarily the end.  Current conditions don’t promote growth, but a storm can regain its strength if the conditions improve.

What began as a stirring begins to wane, no longer sustained by momentum.  We either move on to what we want to accomplish, or express next, or we simply stop where we are and maintain a new status quo.  We may still be doing the things that brought about the change, but we are not as engaged or as active in making the change as we once were.

Now we can apply the changes we wanted to make.  We share what we’ve learned, what we’ve done, and we teach others how to do the same.  This is our vocation; our ministry.  This is the application of our ideas, the incorporation of all that we’ve learned and who we are now.

As with any storm we can become stuck or stalled.  The trouble with this is that flooding can result, as can fires from striking out or destruction in extreme events.  Incorporation is about returning to balance even if it is in a new normal.

What stage of storm are you engaged in with your life?  With your career?


Storms of Life: Growth and Activity

In the second stage of the lifecycle of a storm, clouds lose their hold and begin to rain externally.  Along with high winds and slashing rain there is a chance that thunder is heard and lightning is seen.  The winds are sustained.  Heated clouds continue to rise, bands of thunderstorms gather, and a spiral form takes shape.  Favorable conditions add heat and energy as an eye appears in the center of the spiral.  This is the height of the storm and it can last for up to two weeks and cause a great deal of damage.

In this stage our thoughts and words become action.  What will be is not only sustained in our speech, but becomes evident in what we leave behind.  We act out or react as who we want to be…who we need to be…begins to take shape.  We’re inspired, energized, and this all spins from a center, a vision of change or a need to change.  This is the beginning of what will be manifested and it is exciting.  That excitement can exist as the only source of motivation for any number of hours or days, and a great deal of change can result from it.

In this moment we are having a wilderness experience.  There is contemplation.  There can be sorrow.  We are tried.  We are tested.  It is tough and we feel alone.  There is grief for what has been lost or in what has been realized.  We have crossed a threshold and there is no turning back because we will never be the same.  This is the storm of life.

How has this resembled an experience you’ve had?