By Susan Drevitch Kelly 

Life Transition Coach 

In Japanese, “kintsugi” means “golden repair” or “joining with gold.” It is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. Every break is unique and instead of repairing the broken vessel like new, this 400-year-old technique highlights the scars as part of the design. Kintsugi embraces flaws and imperfections, ultimately creating something even stronger, and perhaps more beautiful, than the original piece of art. 

It is believed that kintsugi may have originated when a Japanese shogun sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. When it was returned, repaired with metal staples, its “ugliness” was considered by some Confucian scholars to be inspirational and Zen-like, as it connoted “beauty in broken things.” Collectors became so enamored with the new art form that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi. 

In addition, kintsugi correlates with the Japanese philosophy of mushin (“no mind”), which encompasses the acceptance of change as a natural aspect of human life. Not only is there no attempt in kintsugi to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated with the use of lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a kind of physical expression of the mushin approach to life. 

This art form also relates to the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, which celebrates the imperfections in life. Wabi literally means alone and sabi means the passage of time. It encourages you to embrace the imperfect in your life and shift your mindset to focus on the good parts of life, your strengths, resilience, and ability to endure. 

Given the interconnections between this ancient art form and Japanese life philosophies, we can begin to view all of this as a metaphor for your life after a profound loss, and a model that can be used to understand your healing process. 

The important lesson in exploring kintsugi is that sometimes in the process of repairing something that is broken, you can actually create something unique, beautiful, and more resilient.  

It treats the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. 

When you suffer the loss of someone you loved so very dearly, your life feels shattered, the world as you once knew it has been blown up in an instant in time, and your heart feels broken beyond repair. Often, you may try to hide your profound sadness, your brokenness, your emotional and mental scars. 

As a grief model, kintsugi suggests that you can show your scars and treat them as part of who you are now, as part of your life story. Living with your loss and moving forward is what makes you who you are in a “new world” without your loved one. 

Kintsugi is a way to reframe your grief journey. After your profound loss, you may feel like your life was broken into a million pieces, just like a shattered piece of pottery; but you can put the pieces of your life back together. As kintsugi teaches, it will look different, but you can become stronger, more resilient, and beautiful in a different way. 

This ancient art form and philosophical approach to life is also a metaphor for hope. It is the opportunity to reframe, reconstruct, and redefine who you are now, in the present, and who you will become in the future. Your heart and your life will not be as it was before. However, the breakage of your former self and life creates a chance for new possibilities. 

Spring has arrived and with it so many signs of rebirth, renewal, and new beauty. It is a perfect time to embrace kintsugi and restart your life.