Why title the book “A Butterfly’s Journey”?
What is the significance of butterflies in grief?
I chose the title of my book to reflect the symbolism of transition that a butterfly represents and how that symbolism relates to our families and our loss. The life cycle of a butterfly is marked by change; each stage – egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult – is radically different from what comes before.
I am struck with the similarity to our own lives, and the radical changes we undergo after the loss of a child, grandchild, or sibling. In many cultures, the butterfly is a symbol of spiritual renewal. The grub-like caterpillar, earthbound and driven by material needs, represents the life of a mortal, while the chrysalis is a metaphor for death. The liberation of the butterfly, miraculously transformed into a being of lightness and grace, symbolizes afterlife.
There are thousands of species, shapes, colors, and styles of butterflies as individual as our children. When they emerge from the chrysalis as beautiful winged butterflies, they have short life spans—as do so many of our children.
Or, we could equate their emergence as a new beginning for them—spreading their wings in their spiritual lives, and we could consider the pupa stage equivalent to our child’s life on earth. Butterflies’ lives are as short as a week or as long as a year. Flight brings the butterfly many advantages—liberating it from the confines of its caterpillar world.
In many cases, our children may be liberated from an illness, depression, or handicaps in taking spiritual flight in their butterfly stage. Like our children, many butterflies live out their lives within a short distance of where they are born, but others embark on journeys of epic proportions, crossing entire continents.
We all go through many transitions in life. I certainly have after losing three children. I believe that families who have lost a child go through even more intense transitions or changes than most other trauma causes. In the natural order of things, our children are not supposed to predecease us. The death of a child rocks our world. Many families come closer together, but some break apart, as my marriage did. We have to adjust to life without our loved one and the impact that has on our families.
We also need to adapt to the differences in how each of us grieves. There is no right or wrong way to grieve although some ways may be healthier than others. I learned much from my own losses and in hearing about the experiences of the grieving families I work with in my support groups. Unfortunately, there is no way out of grief, but through it. Just like a butterfly must go through an ugly stage to reach a beautiful stage, we must go through the grieving process to reach a healthy acceptance stage. You can’t avoid it or get around it or the grief will be back to haunt you in later years.
Hopefully, my book, A Butterfly’s Journey, can serve as a helpful and compassionate companion to those enduring the loss of someone they loved.