My Sanctuary This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

The warm air of spring blows through my hair, reminding me that summer is drawing nearer. I feel the branch beneath my feet begin to sway in the breeze. I toss my pen and paper to the ground below and lie back against the sturdy trunk. I am suspended high above the ground, held up by only a wooden support. Here, the world is mine to control. I have no cares, no stress, and no worries. In my tree, I am free to think and feel without fear of being judged. Here, I think about life, loss, and love. Mostly, though, I think about the loss of my mom.

I was only 14 years old, a high school freshman, when my mom passed away. There was no warning, no time to “prepare,” and shock was my only emotion. I had plenty of family and friends, but at this moment, I felt completely alone.

I went through all of the so-called stages of grief, in no particular order and some more than others. I met with a counselor twice, spent days in the school counselor’s office, and held late-night crying sessions by phone with close friends. Though no one completely understood, I did have those who were willing to listen.

Various people told me I should find my own way to cope with this sudden loss. So I did just that. I read books about death, dying, and grief, known as “biblio-therapy.” I talked to friends, teachers, and anyone willing to listen. I even spoke to my Sociology class and managed to inspire a few classmates to share their own experiences.

Though being with other people helped, the best method of “dealing” was simply being alone. I needed a sanctuary, and I found one right in my own front yard.

My tree, which until recently I had been unable to climb, turned into a haven. Within its branches, I became shielded from not only the weather but the troubles of life. I was not hiding from life, but letting my problems sift through the leaves like beams of sunlight. I dealt with them one at a time, at my own pace, with no fear of ridicule.

Over the next three years, I started to become more comfortable with my unique situation. I talked less and started listening more. I became a counselor for my friends, helping with their problems and offering a shoulder to cry on. As much as I helped them, they helped me even more. I realized I could turn my tragic experience into something positive. It was during this time that I decided to become a social worker so I can help others as they have helped me.

As I watch the sunset through the branches, the sky looks even more brilliant from here, more vivid somehow. As the air becomes chilled by the darkening sky, I know it is time to leave for the night. I climb down slowly, savoring the feel of the rough bark against my palms. I make my way inside and settle into my bed, staring out the window. There, I see my tree, standing tall, proud, and ready for anything. I guess you could say the same about me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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HollerGirl26 said...
Jan. 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm
You are very brave and a true inspiration. Keep writing and don't lose hope <3
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