After the death of a loved one, there is such power and healing in simply telling your story, over and over…retelling it as much as you need or want to. When you tell the story of your loved one, it re-affirms them as part of your life – even in their death. Sharing your experience, bit by bit, makes death real, and draws people into your life to support you. Overtime, and through the lifelong journey through grief, it’s important to find compassionate ears that will continue to hear about your loved one, and how the loss has impacted your life.
In the “olden days,” it was customary to wear black during a period of grief and mourning. This custom had multiple functions. One was to function as an outward marker of the person’s loss – and so, people would approach the ‘greiver’ and inquire about who died, and offer their support. This simple interaction created an avenue to continue to talk about the loss and receive support on an ongoing basis. In this day-and-age, we have lost this custom to wear black for an extended period of time, but we haven’t lost our need to tell our story. However, in my experience, and in the experience of people who have shared their story with me, it is increasingly difficult to openly talk about death and our experiences of loss.
I was listening to a podcast this week that talked about the silent support of meditation groups. The speaker was trying to portray how being present, silently and without ‘having to do anything,’ created a sense of confidence and understanding in both the hard work of mourning and grief, and the ability to ‘sit’ in the muckiness of life. When we can be together as a group – each silently and individually experiencing our own present truth (even if the truth is painful) there is a sense of perseverance and mutual support – where we hold each other up though both the commonality and universality of our own experiences. She really put words to a sense of support I have felt both in meditation groups and in yoga classes. Silent, non-doing support. Where we can connect with other people without the verbal and/or extroverted pressure.
In your journey through grief, continue to express your grief and your story outside yourself. Talk, write, sing, dance it out. Recognize that this need may not necessarily diminish over time, although it may change. Ask yourself what would feel the best in your body and mind when it comes to expressing your grief. Telling your story verbally is very powerful, and so is the silent support of all the other people (known to you or not) that have experienced deep pain.
“Healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention. As healers we have to receive the story of our fellow human beings with a compassionate heart, a heart that does not judge or condemn but recognizes how the stranger’s story connects with our own. We have to offer safe boundaries within which the often painful past can be revealed and the search for a new life can find a start. Our most important question as healers is not, what to say or to do? But, how to develop enough inner space where the story can be received? Healing is the humble but also very demanding task of creating and offering a friendly empty space where strangers can reflect on their pain and suffering without fear, and find the confidence that makes them look for new ways right in the center of their confusion.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Reaching Out”