The Roads of Grief Have No GPS

The Roads of Grief Have No GPS

This is a little different from my normal blog posts, but the heart of the piece is possibly more about ‘writing the roads of grief’ than any of my previous posts.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a two day workshop presented by, Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, titled
Creative Practices for Counselling the Bereaved

Much ground was covered over the two days. A couple of stand outs for me were watching videos of actual clinical sessions, noticing when certain words or observations caused the person to retreat or even shut down. Also noticing when they lit up with love, when encouraged to share photos and stories of the person whose death they mourned. When we use the name and acknowledge the value of the life of the one who has died, we give a gift beyond words. Because we all grieve differently, it’s important to allow the person who is grieving to take the lead. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when dealing with bereavement.

I knew these things from my own experience of grief, but to see them from the other side was both powerful and empowering. It encouraged me to have confidence in the value of my grief experience as a tool when working with others.

The most important part of the workshop for me was the writing section.
For one of the exercises we were given a group of words:
– traumatic loss, empty house, crying child, animal, mountain, sunrise.
– 8 minutes writing time
– and then instructed to give our piece a title that contained a verb
The following is my 8 minute write (The only thing I’ve changed is the spacing) I’m itching to edit this piece but feel it’s important to show precisely what can be accomplished in 8 minutes.

To Listen Silently is Everything

He is dead, he is dead,
I cried to the rising sun.

I could recall vividly
his first cry
as he came forth from my womb
26 years ago.
My grief was higher than Everest,
but my memories, ah my memories.
They were more beautiful
than the view
from the highest mountain.

His love for his dog, Digbee,
the way he would come home from school,
sit on the back deck
and share his day with his dog.

I would ask ‘How was your day?’
‘OK’ he’d reply.
And to my ‘What did you do?’
his response would be
‘Not much.’

He saved his stories for
his dog,
the perfect listener.

Home would never be the same

Tricia 7/2013

(The one thing that surprised me in the above piece is that it’s 40 years since my son’s birth. I sense I wrote it was 26 years since his birth because he was 26 when he died.)

This was a special experience for me both for the precious memory it evoked, and for the valuable insight it gave me for future writer’s workshops. To give people too many choices can be stultifying. Bob’s very specific instructions had my pen racing over the paper. No time was wasted in getting lost in deciding what to write about. One thing I do know is that decision making can be difficult for the bereaved, and so this simple set of instructions was far more valuable than the page of choices I’d previously given people.

This is the third of Bob’s workshops I’ve attended. I also attended the 8th International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society where, Bob, was a keynote speaker, presenter and panelist.
The following is the link to Bob’s website where you can see the full scope of his work, including some of his poems, and the artwork that accompanies them.

Bob’s work and words found a home in me the first time I heard him speak about grief. He, and my grief psychologist, inspired me to do something with the bag of grief that I’d been lugging around since the suicide of my son, Ken. Bob, was my long distance mentor in the creation of my first writer’s workshop, even encouraged me to document my work and submit my findings re participants progress, to Death Studies, a peer reviewed journal. But sadly, my precious husband, Rod, collapsed and died in my arms before my workshops had gained momentum. I needed time and space to come to terms with this second traumatic death.

Also, with the death of my husband, I was confronted with the reality of my chronic illness. My husband had cared for me in such a way that I’d not realised how much my health issues limited my ability to do many things. Added to this I had a year long battle with the, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM), over errors in my husband’s initial autopsy report. My grief was once again, ‘complicated’.

The roads of grief are different for everyone. My husband and I both grieved the loss of our only child, but we lived that grief differently. It was important for our relationship that we gave each other the time and space to grieve individually.

Now, thanks to good therapy, hard work, loving extended family and friends, lots of writing, and the help, encouragement and support of some who shall remain nameless, I’m ready to move on with my life. I will always grieve the loss of my son and husband, but my grief is now a gentle companion.

I reconfigured and recommenced my writer’s workshops at the end of last year. They will be refined again as a result of my experience of this latest workshop. And while my health permits, I will do what I can to accompany others along their roads of grief, be it health related grief, grieving the death of a loved one, or one of many other grief issues. One thing life has taught me is, death doesn’t own grief.

Tricia 24/7/2013

About triciabertram

I have written all my life. Writing helps me to make sense of a world I often don’t understand. Poetry is my supreme solace, closely followed by literature and music. When my son ended his life in 1999 I embarked on the most difficult journey of my life, my grief journey. To survive in this unknown, harsh landscape I had to write. It was for me, the only way I could even begin to move forward. Then in 2009 my darling husband died suddenly and so my journey continues. I write about other issues but because of my life experience, grief and death are continuing themes in my writing life. In our culture I believe there is a fear of death, an inability to accept the inevitability of our mortality, and this creates enormous difficulties for the bereaved and those around them. I have begun this blog in the hope I will create a small ripple in the pond of fear that is currently drowning the reality of death and grief. I will continue to skim the stones of my truth, watch them bounce, and see how many ripples I can make.

Posted on July 24, 2013, in Learning From Loss, Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I am so very pleased to hear that you are ready to once again begin your writer’s workshops, Tricia. To have come to a place where you can assist others on their own difficult roads of grief is really outstanding. I don’t presume that this will be easy, but that you can share from your own intimate relationship with the depths of such sadness and sorrow and be present for those perhaps newly acquainted with grief, I trust will be a special comfort for you as well as those you assist. You have worked very hard to get to this place, and I hope you’ll be able to share from time to time how this new fork in the road goes for you. The poem from this latest workshop is very meaningful, once again. I so admire your ability to go forward. I hope that this sense of a new vision for your life will also translate into feeling some relief from your chronic illness. Hugs…and a little hope! ox Debra

    • Dear Debra,
      Thank you for your always positive feedback. Although I’m weary, it’s a peaceful weariness, so different to the ‘I can’t go on’ tiredness of the past. I’m so pleased to now know the difference. 🙂
      Now I’m off to catch up on some of your blogs that I have missed.
      Hugs Tricia

  2. Tricia! I am so sorry I missed this amazing post. I was searching for something else that should have appeared in my inbox so I checked “junk mail”and found your post!

    Your poem here touched me in a very deep place, and your loving words about grief have helped me enormously in dealing with my particular grieving over my “lost self”, particularly the stubborn, ever present dialogue with myself that says I shouldn’t be still feeling like this, I should be over the diagnosis now, pull yourself together etc etc etc. Your simple statement that there’s no “one size fits all” is an eye opener and allows all the rubbish to drain away to make room for healthy grieving.

    You are an inspiration to me and a very very treasured friend. And I know you will be an inspiration and a comfort to all those you connect with who are going through he various different stages of grieving and the very different aspects of life that include grief.

    I have come to know and live you very much. Hugs

    Christine xx

    • Christine, you are so dear to me. You can’t know how precious your words are to me at this moment. Reminding me of my “no one size fits all” helps me to continue with my blog, believe in what I do and how I do it. To have you affirm that my words have helped you nurtures and supports me.
      I love you my dear friend. You inspire me and bring me joy.
      Take care, hugs Tricia xoxo

  3. Hi Tricia. Will you just check your spam to see if my comment ended up there. I missed this post. It went into my junk mail and now I have retrieved it my comment has flown away. I should know by now with WP being unpredictable, to put posts into a word document then copy and paste them so I don’t lose the content. I will reconstruct my comment if it has gone astray, but if you would check spam first, thanks. There seems to be a jinx with my commenting on this but I wont give up; its too important a post to miss. 🙂

    Love and hugs xxxxx

    • Hello Christine,
      I checked my spam folder and found your comments. I let them out of prison so you should be able to see them on my blog now. 🙂

      I’ve got a few comments to respond to. I was going to do it today but I’ve a bit of a lung infection and keep falling asleep, sometimes in the midst of typing a sentence. I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.

      Love and hugs

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