I believe in the healing power of conscious grieving.
For the past three years running, I have spent one weekend in August at camp. This isn’t just any camp. It’s a camp for grieving children. Kids from the ages of 6 through 13 who have lost someone they love; a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, cousin, etc. come to learn about grief. Through exercises and sharing sessions, skits and storytelling, they learn that anger is normal, sadness and depression is to be expected and confusion, frustration and lack of focus are also feelings that can be part of the process. They find that they are not the only ones who feel lonely, guilty, betrayed. They learn that being brave isn’t about not feeling scared, but about doing something in spite of feeling scared. They cry, they laugh, they share, they listen and they support one another. I always come away in complete awe, with utter respect for these brave and hurting young souls who leave their families behind to come to this unknown place with a bunch of strangers to openly address the pain of loss. No easy feat for a child. No easy feat, period.
I also see that by Sunday afternoon, they have become living metaphors of the story that is referenced throughout the weekend about the caterpillar who slowly and painfully emerges from the cocoon to blossom into a beautiful butterfly. They have courageously touched their pain, and in doing so have opened up to a world of healing for themselves and others.
Grieving in life is unavoidable. It shows up in all shapes and sizes and isn’t linear in it’s process. We know grieving comes with loss, but not just with the loss of a loved one, it can appear in so many different kinds of passings that we experience throughout life. The thing is, we don’t always recognize it as such – like the loneliness that can come after a dear friend moves away or the anger after a divorce, or simply the melancholy we can feel as summer comes to a close. It can even show up with those self-imposed finales, such as a sense of disconnect after retirement.
Allowing ourselves to take the time to grieve can be tremendously healing – to cry, or eat or sleep or talk or not talk – to take the time to recognize our loss, be gentle with ourselves and open to the world of healing that awaits to transform us into beautiful butterflies.
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