This past Sunday, I attended a workshop titled Healing the Grieving Heart of America led by my friend Terri Daniel and one of her colleagues. I wanted to share a few highlights since grief work is one of my main areas of ministry.
First, Terri and Sarah Peterson (of Clear Mourning) did a fantastic job--and I knew they would! Packed with great info, so professional, plus a nice ritual at the end. The main attraction was the creation of a space in which participants could grieve over everything currently happening in our nation--suffering due to COVID-19, police violence and racism, and political uncertainty. And yes, we are grieving right now because we (collectively as a country) have experienced many losses--loss of income, job, closeness with friends, loss of freedom to go and do as we please, loss of security, loss of life and so on. I wasn't sure what to expect as far as how this would be expressed in the workshop. Seeing as how I'm so liberal, at first I felt like these losses weren't emphasized enough, but now in hindsight, I think Terri and Sarah executed this perfectly. Losses of a political or social nature were acknowledged but not forced upon anyone.
A lovely ritual at the end gave us an opportunity to express our own concerns in a private way, which I appreciated. Based on a Mayan custom, we first wrote on a slip of paper our concerns, thoughts or prayers, and then wound it up with a ribbon. While doing so, I voiced my prayer to Columbia (pictured, "Statue of Freedom" atop the US Capitol), seen by some Pagans as the patron goddess of the U.S. who urges us toward the values of liberty, the divine feminine and justice (We have a long way to go). We were then instructed to hang these outdoors in a tree--which I can' t do living in a townhome community. The homeowners' association frowns on things like that. So instead, I placed it on one of the altars in my indoor shrine.
Other highlights includes more wisdom on what grief is, how it is expressed and how best to integrate it and restore ourselves. Some reminders: When experiencing grief and choosing your activities, it is helpful to ask, "Does it replenish me or deplete me?" When grieving the loss of a loved one, we are also grieving the person we were with our loved one. That person we used to be is also gone. I personally know this to be true. When talking with someone about their loss, be wary of "competing" by comparing their loss with one of your own. Every loss is different and unique. Instead, say something like, "I've gone through something that sounds similar." Or if you're both grieving the same person, simply say, "I miss __________, too." Validating what they feel is key. Finally, its so important to remember that we cannot fix someone else. We cannot "medicate" their suffering with our words. Honestly, not all suffering is "bad." No, it doesn't feel good to suffer, but good things can come from it. In our American tendency to avoid suffering at any costs, we often bypass many treasures. I also know this to be true.
One last thought: If you are currently feeling grief, know that it is ok. Grief is born out of love. Take whatever time you need. And also live in this present moment. Although you may be hurting, are you, right now, safe? Do you have what you need right in this exact moment? If the answer is no, please do reach out to someone and ask for them to listen.
And my prayer?
You do not define America.
My America is better.
We WILL rise.
Love WILL win.