Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Climbing Out of Deep Space: through and beyond grief

My friend, artist Suzy St. John recently posted some new images on her blog. The group is titled:

Throwback to High School Ceramics:  Pinch Pot Figures

Suzy shared her thoughts about them:
"The pinch pot was and still is my favorite work of art. I was a high school student and it came from those angst ridden feelings most teenagers experience. I still relate to that piece!"

Each pot creates a very deep well of space. 

Is it a place to hide and feel safe? Is it a dark place--where you may feel lost? I think that space (like silence) is something that many in western culture are uncomfortable with. Like the figures, we are more at ease outside, surrounded by active people, stuff, sounds, structures. did you notice my use of the term 'active people'?  I recently wrote about our culture's unease with people during their grief and re-adjustment. In Stop Pushing the Bereaved, I suggested that after a death, taking a break from life's typical vibrancy is a sane response to a sudden deep well of space. 

Caregiving during a loved one's end of life "fills the pot" of each day. 

When caregiving ends, the tasks that fill the pot abate. But you are different. You do not bounce back like a rubber band released. Honoring the changes is an important step. 

The Compassionate Friends, an international support network for parents who have lost a child, share a message with newly bereaved moms and dads. Finding The New Me, explains that grief is work that takes time. It is not a straight line on a map. 
"You will learn coping skills from other bereaved parents who, like you, never thought they'd survive." 

Coping skills develop over time.

Learning what feels okay, how to manage when it doesn't feel okay, and how to tackle a new (scary) experience, involve trial and error, courage and cowering, agony and the flutter of recognition that you managed to do something you had dreaded. In this last pinch pot image, Suzy's figures are experimenting:
  • Will my grip on this edge hold?
  • Can I lift my leg that high?
  • Do I have the strength to support my partner?
  • Is it okay to enjoy this moment?

Pinch Pot Figures by Suzy St. John
Used with permission

Do you know someone climbing out of deep space? 

The Condolence Coach suggests the following ideas to encourage or assist them:
  • Be lavish with confidence boosters. Whenever an opportunity arises, offer positive reinforcement. It doesn't have to be a big deal, but spot something and express: 
    • You do that so well... 
    • You were so patient when... 
    • Would you show me how to... 
    • You have a remarkable... 
    • Thanks for telling me about... 
  • Turn off your urge to criticize or advise. Even if your friend describes stresses or struggles, you are most valuable as a listener, acknowledging the matter with simple phrases: 
    • What a bummer... 
    • That stuff is confusing... 
    • You'll find a way... 
    • That's not easy to talk about, thank you for trusting me... 
    • Would a hug help? 
  • Keep talking about the deceased loved one. Freely bring up stories, anecdotes, admiring comments. You are not causing pain! The loved one will always live in the heart and memory. 
  • Give your friend the gift of judgement-free time. 
  • Take time off for yourself, too. 
  • Let intuition guide you on when to be present and encouraging. Remember, your friend's grief work and healing are not your "mission". It's not "all up to you."
For some fresh reflections and insights on grief and time, read:
Thank you for caring!

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