grief and loss workshop

Sojourning with Grief-Portals, Stories, and the Slow Process of Unpacking

My body moves in water more like thick, embroidery floss through a needlepoint canvas than a dolphin crossing oceans. I am not a proficient swimmer but water feels familiar and lap swimming is as much a spiritual practice for me as exercise. Only after completing a restless hour swimming on Monday the 15th did I become aware that day, July 15th, marked three months since I took my first steps on the shores of Scotland. I couldn’t settle into the present moment of water flowing over my shoulders, spilling down my spine, and splashing behind my kicking feet, but I didn’t know why. Instead I was distracted by the pain in my left leg that lingers since I fell hiking over two weeks ago; frustrated I can’t walk this land and reacquaint myself with these trees and hills. Distracted by strands of past conversations that dropped into my head, following them into thickets of brambles that poked and scratched me and serve no purpose but to hurt. Back and forth I swam, trying to release the distractions.

Sojourning with Grief-Returning

My half-open eyes see a cathedral in the darkness of my bedroom before I realize I am home. I hear the first notes of birdsong as the light peaks over the horizon and I float with them across the ocean to another land I also call home. What was familiar seems out of place and old routines lie in a jumble on the floor. In my first week home I lost cash, my spare prescription glasses, and my patience while driving. One of the few things that feels grounding is returning to lap swimming. Somehow the fluidity of water settles me. Crossing the threshold home after Sojourning with Grief has brought me into an old place with new eyes. The familiar is now unfamiliar. I am disoriented.

Sojourning with Grief-The Call to Go Home

“I am a becoming.” In philosophy “becoming” means the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state. That one sentence was all that sputtered from my pen the other night as I meditated in preparation for my eight-week sojourn home. I am a becoming. It didn’t make sense. But then much of what has been unfolding in my life the last six months has less to do with making sense and more about letting go. Less about analyzing loss and more about holding Grief’s hand and saying “yes” to the journey.

Honoring All Grief and Loss During the Holidays

I’ll be honest, Thanksgiving was not easy this year. Oh, it ended on an upbeat note as I enjoyed dinner with my daughter and her boyfriend at his extended family’s home, but it began with the ever present reminder that my ninety-year old mother is declining and any expectations need to be set aside in order to meet her where she is in any given moment. I am on my own grief journey with her through Alzheimer’s and what a holiday looked like last year, or the year before, or a decade ago, can not be reproduced in 2017 like a Facebook memory.

Connections, Disconnections, Re-connections

To say “yes” and not “no” (my usual first response) when offered time away at the beach by a dear friend. Solitude. Dropping down through the curtains of rain, down through the coast range to that sweet point when suddenly (and yes it always seems to take me by surprise) the ocean comes into view. Shoulders drop and my lips taste the salt even with the car windows closed. The sky feels more blue than gray and I turn the wipers off. Instead of driving straight through to Manzanita, I pull over and take photos knowing I can’t capture the magic, but at least I might be able to pixelate the moment into a memory potion one day.

Swimming with Grief

December 17th, my father’s birthday. My dad would have turned 93 this year if he had lived so long. He lived to 63, barely. Funny how grief can linger submerged for a decade or two or even close to three and then bob to the surface for no apparent reason. Or maybe there is a reason—a mother with Alzheimer’s who, as she drifts farther out in a sea of old memories, brings my father up a lot, stirring my own recollections. She still gets peeved with him for “leaving” so long ago, knowing it wasn’t a choice.

Generous Listening

I shouldn’t be amazed. I’ve participate in and lead enough groups to know that if the table is prepared, the ambience welcoming and I step aside and make room for the Holy, people show up for themselves and each other. Yet once again as I reflect after the Grief and Loss workshop I led, I am in awe of the courage shown by six women to step into the unexplored spaces of their hearts and share with honesty what flows out through their pens.