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Finding the Courage to Grieve (Workshop – May 5)

Posted on 14 February 2018 by Douglas Merrow

Tips for Facing the Challenges of Loss

by Deborah Rodney

Grief is a part of life. It can come like a thunderbolt or we can stumble into it in a hundred different ways. It accompanies the losses of illness and aging. It collides with heartbreaking world events  and our neighbor’s burdens. If we’re not grieving, we’re not paying attention.

Grief is a traveling companion. Though unwelcome, it is important to acknowledge her because, denied or ignored, grief can land in the body or the psyche as illness and debility. She can be a formidable enemy, so it’s safer to greet grief as a friend who takes us to a deep intimacy with life.

In order to face grief with courage, it’s important to confidently know that beauty, tranquility, delight and love are also companions. Keeping them close can help us land safely when we fall.

In our culture, resilience isn’t easy because grieving is a lonely struggle. In many indigenous cultures, the tribe holds part of every member’s grief. It is accompanied by ranting, keening, tearing hair and slashing clothes. For us, it is often faced alone in bed with blankets over our heads. Often during funerals, a family is sequestered away so their grief can be held privately. Even the ritual of a ‘life celebration’ can deny the expression of ceremonial grief.

Finding the courage to grieve doesn’t happen naturally or because some of us are stronger than others. It doesn’t often come with the support of community or even friends. Most people don’t know how to hold grief by being a witness. Their impulse is to fix it, make it somehow more comfortable and hurry it to an end. Grief doesn’t come to a resolution. It accompanies life.

So how do we make friends with grief? Most of us fear grief because we don’t know how to find resilience. Yet, we can create reliable safety nets so we can go deeper and deeper into our grief with the confidence that we will not get lost in it. These are some practices for moving grief into resilience:

Trust Beauty and Sensuality
Choose a symbolic touchstone; something of beauty that will remind you that life has many facets and that you can feel joy and awe again. Keep it nearby. Let it call you up from the murky depths of your grief. And find an easily accessible place that nurtures you. It can be a museum or art gallery, a park, a forest or pond. It can be your backyard garden. When you’ve cried your fill, coax yourself out into a place you love. Let its beauty wash over you. No matter what happens on the planet, beauty remains steady.

Hold Your Grief
Choose those among your friends who can hold your grief without trying to fix it. Notice who listens and who can love you no matter what. Find someone who can hold you while you cry and rage. Practice holding other’s grief. Learn to listen deeply without attachment to a result.

See the Magic
Attune yourself to the ‘magic’ around you. There’s a lot going on under the surface of life. Develop your intuition. Learn to recognize synchronicity. Pay attention to the messages in your dreams. They show you that there is some kind of mysterious symmetry in a world that feels chaotic and frightening.

Practice Feeling Loved
Love yourself no matter what. You are a spiritual being having human experiences. Recognize that love is a force nudging you into wholeness and giving you the strength to grieve and find resilience. Feeling loved will give you courage.

Begin the Healing 
Find and welcome healing support that nourishes you. Some healing practices like reiki, yoga and acupuncture offer you strength without judgement. Don’t wait until you are grieving to find them. Cultivate these resources so they are there when you are ready to move from grief to resilience, or from resilience back into grief. Welcome Tenderness It’s okay to be tender. Find space in your
busy and stressful life for tenderness and for you to practice tenderness with others.

Don’t Push Grief Away
Give it space and time. Feel it deeply. Take time to cry and rage. Know that grief is only part of the experience of life and that beauty, awe, hope and love will beckon you toward resilience if you
pay attention.

Find Balance
Leap into grief with courage, knowing that you can also leap into beauty and the sensuality of living. Welcome all life’s experiences with balance. Balance grief and beauty. Fear and safety. Tenderness and boldness. Heartbreak is a part of life. It is possible to hold a little grief all the time. Just like you can hold a little beauty all the time.

Grief and Resilience Workshop – May 5

An important step in developing a healthy relationship with grief so it doesn’t get stuck somewhere in our bodies and psyches is to develop practices that support us. In a workshop developed by Deborah Rodney, participants will learn simple techniques for finding resilience. Using her book of poetry, Promise To Kiss Me, and honing the skills of emotional literacy, visualization,
active imagination and compassion, participants will take away an array of practical exercises and reminders that provide safety nets for the exploration of a new relationship with grief.

“Deborah’s themes and poetry gave new shape to our shared reflections on both personal and collective grief, highlighting the tools of resilience we all need.” ~Sophia

“This workshop provided a safe and open forum for thinking about grief in personal ways and, more broadly, as an essential and natural part of the human condition.” ~Margaret

The next workshop will be held on Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Flanders House (2926 NE Flanders Street, Portland). $40-$50 sliding scale. If a money exchange is challenging, a trade can be negotiated. Email for more information and to register. 

Deborah Rodney is a writer, living in Portland, Oregon. She has worked as a Communications Specialist on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, has been a Reiki Master for 26 years and studied Non-violent Communication in the early 80s with Marshall Rosenberg and others. Connect with Deborah at


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