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My Path Through Grief

I’ve always enjoyed words--the sounds, the layered meanings, the history, how they look on the page. I

majored in English in college and got a master’s degree in Comparative Literature. After my children

were born, I turned my attention to them and later to my career as a massage therapist and health

coach. I still enjoyed writing when the inspiration or the occasion arose, but that was only sporadically.

After my husband’s death in 2017 many people suggested that I try journaling. I bought a beautiful

leather-bound journal with a Tree of Life embossed on the front cover. It lay by my bedside unused for

months before I finally put it away. I could not bring myself to use words, which had been such a source

of joy and creativity for me, to express the pain and fear and anger and loneliness inside me.

Instead, I turned to movement and meditation—the movement in the form of Dance Healing, dance

classes taught in Seattle by Hayley Shannon. Hayley welcomed my emotional expression and

participation or non-participation in the movement. The group was also accepting of my grief. At the

first class I danced during the initial part which was individual free movement to music. During the

second half which included partner work, I asked to opt out. John had only been dead a couple of

months and the thought of “partnering” with anyone felt impossible. Initially I sat by the wall watching

with tears running down my cheeks. When the group finished the first dance, Hayley asked if I felt ready

to join a triad by bringing my chair onto the floor and letting my role be that of watcher. She also told

my group that I was free to join in the movement if I decided I was ready. My partners were a young

man and woman. They did a great job of dancing with each other and including me with eye contact and

gesture. By the end of the dance, I had stopped crying. I felt seen, recognized; my deep grief

acknowledged, out in the open, no longer just a huge knot inside me. We ended the class by drawing

what we had experienced. I did the best I could to draw a dark tangle in the middle of the page

exploding out into light.

The meditation I used was Realization Process which I had been practicing for about 8 years. I had

learned to use my breath to connect to all parts of my body, both inside and out, to inhabit my body. It

was in my body that I could connect with the vast inner stillness, space, wholeness within me. I didn’t

have to sit in lotus position. I could sit in a chair, or take a walk, or dance. I didn’t have to be alone; I

could be sitting in an airport. I could acknowledge the emotions that I was feeling in my body and let the

space pervade the emotions and my body and everything around me. I could let the contractions within

me begin to unwind.

Two years ago, after moving to Portland, OR to live closer to my daughter and her family, I was ready to

write again. I am now having fun writing stories gleaned from my 80 years of life on planet Earth. I am

part of a writing group based in Seattle that has been meeting regularly via Zoom. After I felt called to

teach Realization Process to people who are in grief, I started writing about all the deaths that I could

remember that had affected me. I affectionately called these the death tales. This blog, “Gleanings from

Grief “ will present some of those tales as well as other essays relating to the many ways of experiencing

and growing through grief.

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