When someone we love dies, that relationship does not end. It is constantly unfolding and refolding itself in different ways. Like an origami in grief” — Leah B. Schade
Throughout the years, people around the world have developed creative ways to express themselves through the use of paper. Books are the most obvious, but there are many art forms, such as papier–mâché and origami, a popular practice that was conceived in China but more closely tied to Japan.
Origami is the art of paper folding. It gets its name from two Japanese words, ori (folding) and kami (paper). Origami consists of folding a single sheet of paper into a piece of art without cutting, gluing, or taping it.
In her recent column “The Origami of Grief,” author Leah B. Schade discussed the relationship between her own grief and the fine art of origami. “The conventional wisdom I was taught in seminary,” she wrote, “is that we should allow at least a year when it comes to grieving a loved one….but even a year is not enough. Contrary to what our culture expects, we don’t just ‘get over’ grief. Our relationship with that person never goes away even after they die. It is constantly unfolding and refolding itself in different ways. Like an origami in grief.”
Schade describes her journey through grief as sometimes being the one to do the folding. “When death is placed in my hands like a new square of paper, it cuts and bleeds as if the paper is shot through with barbed wire. Later when I try to refold it into a smaller shape to fit my ‘moving on in life,’ it leaves splinters behind, as if the paper is woven with filaments of glass that break off and embed themselves into my skin.”
She concludes with the notion that there are times when her “origami of grief” takes on a path of its own. “I am left puzzling about what it has become,” she observed, “trying to read the living hieroglyphic of a language too ancient to translate.”
The beauty of origami art is not only in the end result of the created piece of art, but also in the complexity, struggle, and patience required to get there. And, so it is with grief — complicated, difficult—requiring our time and endurance to get to our new real existence.