Harvesting the Gifts of Grief
As the nights draw in and we transition through late summer into autumn, we begin one of my favourite months, September, when the fruits of the natural world are still abundant in the gardens, woods and hedgerows around us.
It’s also a time when the natural world is letting go, dying and preparing for descent into the stillness of the darker half of the year (in the Northern hemisphere, that is).
I enjoy following and working with the annual rhythms of the seasons. And I’m about to embark on a 13-moon journey, more closely observing her rhythms and tides, and taking a good rest and screen break for a couple of days at each dark moon. It’s an experiment in which I’m exploring ‘resting with nature’ and I’ll share some of my discoveries with you as the journey unfolds.
I’m ever more deeply drawn to resting, since this summer has been incredibly challenging for me, and it’s been a while since I found the ‘hwyl’, or enthusiasm, to sit and write a newsletter.
I’m grateful to have the support and wisdom of the Sitting with Death and Choosing Life team during this time, while I faced a suicide attempt by someone close to me and intense grief following the recent death of my longest-standing former partner. A lovely friend and neighbour also died recently, and I attended both of their funerals on the same day this week, which was overwhelming, to say the least.
I’m grief-filled, raw and tender at this time, and resting with nature is the best medicine I know, along with being with people who can welcome and hold space for shared grieving. I’m grateful for those who don’t shy away from grieving, whether it arises from personal losses or grief for our world. I find my whole being relaxing when I’m able to say how it truly is for me and listen deeply to others sharing the wilderness in their hearts. Given my long history with grief and loss this increasingly feels like my deep calling or purpose in life.
Something else I’ve been sitting with and exploring in recent months is an inquiry into uncertainty, mystery, or not-knowing. This is also counter-cultural, since we’re tamed and schooled from childhood to think that disembodied, thought-based knowledge is an important currency and status symbol.
In this supposedly post-truth era, I’m less interested in ideas of ‘personal truth’ or ‘the Truth’ than I am in letting it all fall away and being with the Mystery. It’s a kind of free-falling that is far from easy.I’m often tempted to cling to a passing life raft, to find an explanation or meaning for what’s happening. But then I catch myself being sucked in by familiarity, and remember that I can rest more deeply in not-knowing than I can in believing in something.
It’s a mystery why I’ve been faced with such profound personal loss at a time when I’m deepening my apprenticeship to grief work. I’ve held spaces for ‘grief for our world’ for almost ten years and facilitated Death Cafes for five years. I’m now offering spaces for a more expansive exploration of death, dying, loss, personal and worldly grief and, in the face of all this, how to keep embracing and choosing life.
Sitting with Death, Choosing Life Foundation Course
“This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, for these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings. To suffer with is the literal meaning of compassion.” ~ Joanna Macy
Do you make time and space to face your grief, to welcome and allow it?
Or do you try to avoid, manage or ‘deal with it’ in some way?
Perhaps you numb your feelings through addictive habits like overeating, drinking, distraction, or keeping busy? If so, I’ll be the last to judge you as this was my default self-protective mode for many decades
Do you have the right information, tools, skills, and support for coping with grief?
Do you even know where to begin?
Perhaps you’ve noticed a lot of despair, anger, judgement and blame on social media in recent times, with increasing divisions and hostilities between groups of people with opposing views? It may be that beneath all of this vitriol sits within each of us a deep pool of unexplored grief.
Anger can be a useful fuel for making change happen. And in the longer run it can also be corrosive to our own well-being. Rage has its place in transforming society, especially when tempered with a compassion and kindness that begins with discovering what lies deeply within our own hearts, minds and bodies.
This eight-week journey is for those of us who feel drawn to facing and grieving what’s dying or has already gone from our lives and the world. It’s for those of us who sense that grieving isn’t supposed to be a private, lonely affair, but one that can flow more easily with a supportive community of fellow explorers.
The global pandemic has touched us all with some level of grief and loss - whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, your place in the world, your friendships, or any other kind of loss.
As well as the pandemic, we’re unavoidably confronted with the global backdrop of climate change, ecological breakdown, endemic social injustice and widening political divisions.
Many of us also have a backlog of unexplored, or unresolved personal grief, since we live in a dominant culture in which there’s been neither a welcome, nor eldership teachings in the ways and skills of grieving.
Our experiences of death, dying, loss and grief are as unique as every individual and all will be given a welcome in this group.
The course will take place in a safely and gently held online space in which we can share what’s in our hearts and our wonderings and wanderings in the realms of death, grief and loss. Together we’ll learn the skills of ‘deep discovery conversations’, in which all of us and all parts of us are welcomed, and where new perspectives may emerge.
This is an opportunity to discover, explore and practice the skills of grieving, for ourselves and for our world.
“Grief is not a feeling, it is a capacity. It is not something that disables you, we are not on the receiving end of grief we are on the practising end of grief.” ~ Stephen Jenkinson
The course will take place over eight Wednesday evenings 7-9pm (UK time), commencing on Wednesday, October 6th. There are just eight places available in the group, to ensure that everyone has ample time and space to speak.
The full cost of the course is £120, of which £40 is payable to Tribe in Transition for the online stimulus materials and guidebook (which you can keep for good). The remainder is the facilitation fee, payable directly to me. Please email me here for full details of how to book and pay, or with any queries you may have before committing to this journey.
This foundation course is a stand alone part of a larger Sitting With Death, Choosing Life programme created by Rose Diamond of Tribe in Transition. Details of the other courses and materials available within the wider programme can be found here.