The aftermath of the epic earthquake in Nepal is on my mind as I continue to read headlines and see footage of this beautiful country in ruins. What happens to the collective energy of a country when so many of its people are grieving and mourning? As a strong believer in the importance of rituals, especially when it comes to death and dying, I was relieved to read that many Nepalese were honoring their deceased loved ones through cremation rites and ceremonies, including one Hindu tradition where the mourner circles the pyre three times before lighting it. "May your souls rest in peace," a man chants. Yes, I like that. "Losing you has turned my heart to stone." No. That second phrase does not sit well with me. I think many of us who have endured the death of a loved one would disagree with his statement. Grief, in my experience, actually has the opposite effect. Four years after my beloved mom's death, my heart feels like it has actually expanded, exponentially. Yes, I had to feel deep pain and sadness and longing, but over time, grief was a gift because I also have more capacity now to feel joy, contentment and empathy. A heart turned to stone is no way to honor the dead. By mourning their death, and allowing ourselves to experience the full range of feelings that come with grief, we acknowledge the importance of the deceased in our life and celebrate their time on Earth.
This Wall Street Journal article resonated with me and reminded me of a great comment I heard recently. It was my sometimes wise husband Stevie who told one of our kids, "There's a reason you were born with two ears and one mouth." He was stressing to them the relative importance of listening over talking. The key message, Talk Less, Listen More, applies to life in general, and especially to those challenging situations when we struggle with how to best support a friend who's going through a difficult time. While the WSJ article focuses on depression, the information is very relevant for grief as well. Rather than letting our fear of doing or saying the wrong thing paralyze us, this article reminds us that simply being present and listening is often the most helpful thing we can do for a friend who is suffering. Don't feel the need to solve the problem. Don't offer lame cliches in an attempt to minimize the pain. Acknowledge the situation for what it is (difficult, unfortunate, etc) and then just listen.
The positive feedback I've received on the website over the past month has been rewarding. Thank you all for the words of support. It's been especially gratifying to hear people say the words and pictures have been a source of comfort. I plan to continue adding to the website, so please stay tuned. This past weekend I enjoyed hearing playwright, screenwriter and author Catherine Ann Jones discuss her latest book, Heal Yourself With Writing at my favorite local bookstore (Book Passage in Corte Madera). Catherine talked about the importance of listening to our inner guidance and intuition, and feels that looking back upon her life, there has been a higher design, that she has been guided from one chapter to another. It resonated with me as I've also come to appreciate and trust in the unfolding of my life. Catherine teaches writing workshops locally at Esalen and around the world. This latest book offers writing exercises as well as her own stories and insights into what she calls the craft and soul of writing. For more information, visit her website, The Way of Story
Welcome to Grief, Grit & Grace. I hope this site is helpful to those in a time of need, whether facing a loss or comforting a friend who is grieving. I view these pages as very much a work in progress and will be adding and updating things frequently. I would be grateful for your feedback and comments.