"When we truly open our hearts to each other, there is no burden too heavy for us to carry together, there is no pain too deep for us to hold in each other’s arms. And it’s in that place—of feeling the Earth’s injuries, and feeling it with each other—that the alchemy emerges. It’s in the cauldron of sharing our grief with our community, of gazing at it together and not looking away, that the heartbreak turns to hope."
—Jeremy Lent, from The Alchemy of Heartbreak and Hope: A Spiritual Practice for Our Time (2020 Gala for the Whidbey Institute)
How do you usually work through loss?
When I was asked that recently, I had to stop and think, How DO I work through loss? What do I do?"
I was asked in the context of a writing exercise so I wrote down: "go to the water's edge, talk with friends, journal, pray, breathe..."
* * *
In these times of disruption, there are layers and layers of loss. Some of us are going through enormous losses; some of us experiencing losses that aren't as big, but they are still significant.
And we are experiencing meta-loss in terms of life being different than it used to be. And the experience of being in a society and world where there is loss all around us.
(The reality is, this was the case prior to COVID; it's just much harder to ignore this reality now.)
A couple weeks ago I was talking with Laura van Dernoot Lipsky on the phone in preparation for an event we (AFP) was hosting where she was going to be the presenting on "Navigating Amidst Overwhelming Times."
The topic of loss came up. I mentioned how on a recent walk downtown, I looked in the windows of the improv theatre where I had taken classes for the last decade. All the signage and photos of main stage performers were gone. Everything emptied. I knew that they had closed their doors, but it just hit me fresh when I saw the bare walls.
In talking with Laura I was downplaying this loss compared to other things people are going through. She jumped in right away to say basically that it really doesn't help to compare loss. Loss is loss.
And I thought later about why it hit me so hard when I saw those bare walls. And what I thought and felt was that this was the place where I took improv classes that deeply transformed my life (improv gets type casted as comedy; it's really about learning a freer way to be). And improvisation was a huge seed in the formation of a new vocation for me.
I was deeply sad that they closed their doors. ... And really it was important for me to face that sadness.
(Addendum.. Adding this later.. maybe stumbling on a paradox... Yes Loss is Loss. AND there some losses that are absolutely devastating and that are much deeper in the impact. I'm adding this b/c I do not want to make light of the very real larger losses that many are going through. ... I think it's important to take all loss seriously and to discover ways for us to face, grieve, support each other.)
* * *
How do you work through loss?
At some point I believe we need each other. We need social support.
And yet here we are in this time of isolation and physical distancing.
And Zoom fatigue is real, right? We can't really have deep meaningful connection on Zoom. << Fact checking: False. Not necessarily true. And understandably believed by many because that has been their experience.
(Okay, I'm catching myself on a tangent here. Future blog post: Zoom Fatigue - Does it have to happen? Short answer: nope.)
Here's the point I'm getting to - we need each other. And meaningful connection can happen on Zoom even with perfect strangers.
* * *
I had the privilege of attending a Grief Walking workshop in August led by Keith McCandless, one of the founders of Liberating Structures. Grief Walking is a Liberating Structure in development.
It's a very simple process where everyone is invited to bring to mind a loss they have experienced. Keith encouraged us to not use the biggest loss, but maybe something medium or small. Then we were given four writing prompts.
Then a volunteer is asked to share their prompts one at a time. And with each prompt shared, someone who resonates with what is read will "walk with them."
(Ex: "David, I will walk with you")
Then we debrief why each person chose to walk with the person sharing their loss. And the Grief Walker shares what it was like for her.
Quite simple, and yet when I went through it and later guided others, it was very powerful.
My colleague Vienna and I led it in September and we are facilitating another Grief Walking event on October 30 and November 19. We are leading this not only for you; but also so you can learn this structure and lead it with those in your circle.
We are offering this workshop at no charge. Please consider joining us.
"A burden shared is a burden halved." - T.A. Webb
NOTE: This session is not therapy nor a substitute for therapy. Please seek professional help that you need. More information on Liberating Structures can be found at LiberatingStructures.com