by Danielle Schroeder
"Grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain. It is a sorting process. One by one you let go of the things that are gone and you mourn for them. One by one you take hold of the things that have become a part of who you are and build again."
— Rachel Naomi Remen
I recently came across these wise words from Rachel Remen as I prepared for one of our monthly grief circles. Several times I re-read the line, “grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain,” to be sure I grasped its meaning. I asked myself if this is how I have experienced the grieving process, both personally and professionally. I wondered, is it really true that when we give ourselves the time and space to grieve, we can get to a place where we can remember with love and not just unbearable pain? And I knew the answer was "yes," which left me feeling tremendously comforted and hopeful.
It has taken me sixteen years to learn to trust my own grief, which started after the death of my mother, then my grandmother a few years later, and then several dear friends and all the incredible people I have sat with over ten years in my work. Rachel’s words reaffirmed what I have grown to trust deeply: healing is possible when the right conditions are available to us for our grieving.
In particular, Rachel’s words reinforced the kind of healing I see happening each month when I sit with those who come to our grief circle. People come seeking a safe and non-judgmental space to be with their grief, as well as with others who "get it" and who are willing to "just listen." Our circle is open to those new to grief who need a space to lay down their heartaches, without worrying about burdening their loved ones with the weight of the pain they carry. Others who attend might be further along in their grief, perhaps in the middle of the "sorting process" Rachel describes. For them, the circle offers a space to reflect on how they are doing, to share memories and to explore with others what they hope for as they look ahead.
We feel grateful to be able to offer our grief circle at Callanish, to keep building a safe and loving community for those who are grieving the death of a loved one, because grieving is hard work. It can be lonely, confusing and isolating, and there is no question that it is much harder to go through it alone.
Danielle Schroeder is the Young Adult Program coordinator at Callanish, facilitating groups and providing counselling for young adults and their families. She is also a clinical counsellor and a restorative yoga teacher.