In our death adverse culture grief gets a bad rap too. It is often considered a burden. It is regularly suggested we keep a stiff upper lip or that we get over it. This goes on despite the good work of hospice organizations. Unexpressed grief can and does result in things like isolation, loneliness, weight gain, depression, over medication, and other health issues and there is a lot more grief lying under the surface than most of us would guess.
I was recently giving a workshop here in British Columbia where participants were offered the time, space, and support to let go of emotions, beliefs and habits that they found getting in their way of living a full and authentic life. It wasn’t the intention of the workshop to relieve grief.
I was surprised at how much grief was being let go of. From care aides, to teachers to wives and husbands all carried varying degrees of grief. Some were holding grief due to the death of a friend or loved one. Others were holding grief from the loss of a classmate. Still others were holding the grief from a patient. Some were holding grief arising from teen deaths resulting from drug misuse – fentanyl.
No matter what the source of the grief there was lots of it lurking beneath the surface. I was surprised at how common this withheld grief was amongst the participants.
All we facilitators could do and all we needed to do was simply hold people as they cried and witness the release of their grief. Hold the space; hold them; and let the tears flow. It was remarkable in its simplicity and in the relief we all felt.
Looking back at the weekend’s process, recalling all the kleenex littering the floor, and remembering the tears that were shed, I found myself marveling at how profoundly simple it was to support people in the release of their grief. Not many words were required.
Mostly it was just permission to let go that seemed to be the key, along with a willingness to receive.
Permission to express their grief in a way that worked for them in a collective yet private way. We all did it together and oddly there existed a sort of safety in numbers. The power of community once again gets revealed – it does take a community to grieve.