mementos left at a common grave for stillborn babies

I have become an intimate friend of grief.

As a young child, watching my grandfather die on the front lawn, I first came to know grief as the jagged, breathless song on my grandmother’s lips.

I have carried death in my womb and laboured with great sobs of agony while I birthed a child named Matthew and his siamese twin named Grief.

I have raced frantically across the prairies, a newly fatherless daughter, holding fresh grief like a dagger in my chest.

In the ditch where a storm washed away the blood of my father, I have fallen to my knees and cried out to a distant God who came to me only as Grief incarnate.

I have worn grief as my garment to three funerals in as many months – father, grandmother, uncle.

I have thrown rocks at grief when it threatened to suffocate me both times my beloved’s life hung on the thread he’d attempted to sever.

Grief has come to me as anger, as agony, as fear, as guilt, as a tender companion, as the milk in my unsuckled breasts, as colours on a canvas, as a poem, and as a collection of story threads in my overflowing basket. Grief is both wildly unpredictable and comfortably reliable. Grief pokes its head into my life when I least expect it or when it’s the most inconvenient and then goes into hiding when I’m sure it will be present.

Grief is not one emotion or one experience but many, many emotions, experiences, thoughts, waves, daggers, and physical manifestations.

Grief has been my enemy, my compass, my friend, my lover, my teacher, my poem, my muse, my dance partner, my task-master, and my spiritual director.

Grief is also my paintbrush, my pen, and my musical accompaniment. I have painted my grief, danced my grief, walked with my grief, made mandalas of my grief, painted grief on my body, photographed my grief, made collages out of the things that brought grief to my life, and found almost every creative way possible to metabolize and give shape and form to my grief. Grief is always near at hand when I am most honest in whatever art form I engage in.

Grief does not give us easy journeys. Grief throws rocks in our paths and takes away all the guideposts and maps. It refuses to show up in well-ordered stages along a straight path. Instead, it welcomes us to a tumultuous, chaotic dance.

Without a roadmap for our grief, sometimes the best thing we can reach for is a trusted guide… someone who understands the dance of grief and knows that no two dance partners are the same. Someone who will help us find the practices that will best strengthen and encourage us along our own unique paths.

This past year, I have had many conversations about grief with my trusted friend, Cath Duncan. She is a student of grief, in the best possible way. She understands it on a deep cellular level and has walked the path of it as a true and honest pilgrim. She has studied it like a grief archeologist and scholar, determined to find meaning in what she unearths.

The same can be said about Kara Jones, whose creative work around grief is both breath-taking and challenging.

Together, Kara and Cath have developed a beautiful new program called Creative Grief Coaching Certification, where people in helping professions can learn more about how to support people in grief. I believe in this program wholeheartedly and am thrilled to be one of the guest lecturers who will help participants learn more about how to equip people with creative processes to engage with along the grief journey.

Cath and Kara understand the complexity and nuances of grief. They also understand the importance of seeing grief as a creative process that will transform us if we invite it in. I believe they are just the right people to be offering this beautiful gift to the world.

If you want to learn more about grief, and you believe you have a gift for serving as a creative grief coach, please check it out.

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