When my sister and I were little we loved picking dried dandelions and blowing on the seeds to figure out what time it was.
Even now, at the age of 37, I still do it. I love the whimsy and playfulness of it all but it’s more bittersweet these days. Now, instead of both of us blowing them and laughing, I do it for both of us.
My baby sister died almost nine years ago at the age of 25 and even today as I write these words, so many dandelion clock hours down the line, I can feel the lump in my throat and the tears filling my eyes.
I recently wondered why I’ve always felt such a strong affinity with dandelions, why they bring me so much joy, and generate such deep thinking. And so I went in search of the answers, ones that I hope will bring you some of the same comforts they’ve brought me.
Whether your grief wound is fresh or faded, whether it came to be from the death of a person, a relationship, a job, or a dream, the humble dandelion has something to teach you.
5) You can thrive in difficult conditions
Did you know that the dandelion can grow just about anywhere? From your lawn to cracks in the sidewalk, these resilient little flowers can survive any environment and any challenge.
Just like you.
Even if all you can find right now is the tiniest sprinkling of soil, that’s all you need to keep growing.
When someone or something that held a meaningful place in our life dies, it can feel like we’re surrounded by concrete that’s so strong and so hard we fear it might suffocate us.
But you are made of tougher stuff than you give yourself credit for.
The harsh conditions you find yourself in right now, will not be permanent. Just like the laws of nature dictate that winter must give way to spring, so too will your grief one day give way to feelings of joy.
There are no rules on how you should grieve. You are not doing it wrong if you find yourself laughing weeks after something precious has been lost nor are you wrong if it takes several years to feel even a spark of joy.
Know that right now, in this moment, no matter what it looks like or how it feels, that it’s okay. That you are okay. You are more courageous than you give yourself credit for and your roots are deep, this situation will not break you, no matter how much it may feel that way.
Always remember that no matter how difficult the conditions, you are continuing to thrive, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
4) You can overcome any challenge
The harsh environments that dandelions often grow in and the sometimes enormous distances their seeds travel to find new homes is a daily reminder that any challenge, no matter how great, can be overcome.
Like the dandelion, it may feel like all the pieces of who you are, are getting blown about on every wind. You may feel like you’re being ripped from your stem, the foundation of who you believed you were and scattered far and wide.
And in many ways, that’s exactly what’s happening. Your grief is cracking you open and breaking you apart.
Dandelion seeds are called parachutes because when they catch the wind they can travel great distances before settling on a patch of ground in which to plant themselves.
You are no different and while it feels terrifying at the time, you too have a parachute that keeps you safe. One day, maybe months, maybe years, you find new ground in which to plant yourself and so the seeds of the next version of you are sewn.
3) The sun is never as far away as it may feel
The vibrant yellow color of the dandelion flower is a reminder that even when the sun disappears behind the clouds, it’s power and warmth are still there.
When you’re grieving it can be hard to imagine life ever feeling sunny again and while I disagree with the line of thinking that grief gets easier with each passing day, I do believe that with the passage of time comes more and more moments of joy and brightness.
Would I say that it’s any easier to be without my sister's physical presence than it was nine years ago? No. I still miss her just as much as I always have and if anything the more I grow as a person and the more I experience in this life, the more I miss not having her here to share it with.
But, what I have found is that the waves of grief get less intense and further apart and there are feelings of joy and aliveness where there was once only numbness.
It is possible to simultaneously hold both your sorrow and your joy and perhaps this is how we best do justice to life, to acknowledge that it is neither one thing nor the other, neither all dark nor all light but instead it is the mix of it all that makes life so beautiful and precious.
If you’re going through a season where it feels like the sun has disappeared, know that it is still there, hidden behind the clouds but still shining. One day, just like the dandelion, you will once again turn your face towards the sky and feel the warmth of its rays.
2) You are courageous beyond belief
The word dandelion comes from the medieval Latin phrase ‘dens lionis’ which means lions tooth. Given that lions represent courage and dandelions can thrive just about anywhere, they are a great reminder that you too are far braver than you give yourself credit for.
When you look back over your life there isn’t a single thing you haven’t been able to get through or figure out. How can I know that with such certainty without knowing you? Because you’re still here. You’re still breathing. You’re still living. And that says a lot. I don’t need to know you to know you’re courageous, those things in themselves are proof enough of that.
You have the heart of a lion and the spirit of a dandelion. You endure no matter what life has given you and you do it with courage, strength, and grace. That’s not something to underestimate so I hope you’re giving yourself the credit you deserve.
And just so you know, because we as humans have a horrible tendency to compare ourselves to others, nobody is stronger or more together than you, no matter what it may look like. Grief is hard and each and every one of us does the best we can to figure out how to live as we go along.
So, give yourself a break okay?
1) Your pain will one day help someone else
Dandelions give generously of themselves. When the honeybee emerges from hibernation in the early days of spring, the dandelion is one of the only food sources available. They provide nectar and pollen to nourish the honeybee until other flowers begin to bloom.
As humans we are not all that dissimilar. When we are in the early days of grief we look to things to nourish us, whether that be the comfort of those we love or the wise words found in books. These things sustain us until our lives once again feel in bloom.
When we emerge from winter into spring and summer the roles become reversed and we often use all that we have learned to provide nourishment to someone else.
That is the cyclical nature of life. We both give and receive.
Your pain has a purpose and while at the time it is often impossible to see, with time that purpose can slowly become clearer.
A few years after my sister died I began a new career working in a hospice as an end of life care facilitator, educating health care professionals on how to work with those who are dying. Now, I’m looking to start my own business to help those who are doing the caring so that they have the energy that’s needed to do the work they do.
When my sister died I would never have thought that her death would lead me to where I am now but it has and while it has taken a long time to gain the clarity I have today, it was drip-fed to me slowly in doses that I could handle.
There will be many gifts to be found in your grief and when you feel ready, those gifts will help someone who’s standing where you are now.
Who knew that all those times I spent laughing and blowing dandelions with my sister would provide me with so much comfort down the line. Knowing what I now know about the humble dandelion, my fascination with them finally makes sense.
I’m not sure about you but for me, symbolism has become so very important to me in the years since my sister died. For other people who have more logical and scientific minds, the idea of signs and symbols may seem a bit nuts but for me, mystery and magic have become ways of finding meaning in what has happened.
I use various signs and symbols as ways of navigating my way along this path. They give me hope and faith that while she’s no longer physically here, my sister is never far away.
The dandelion reminds me that there’s nothing I can’t weather and that wherever the winds of life take me, my parachute will help me land safely.
Know that all of this is true for you too. You are strong and brave and resilient and as time goes on you will find your way home to yourself. The sun will shine again and you will once again feel joy. And one day, your path will cross with someone who is in their own winter season and the wisdom you’ve gained from your own may be exactly the nourishment they need.
Thank you for being here and for taking the time to read this piece, it means the world to me. I always reply to people who have taken the time to reach out to me via email so please get in touch so we can connect. It would be a privilege to hear your story — email@example.com