Last Sunday, I co-presented a workshop for bereaved parents at Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary in Shere; it was the second time that my friend Linda Sewell and I had put together such a day. Of course, we could not have done it without the help of our creative co-presenter Lucy and the healers and helpers who supported us throughout the planning and eventually the day; and also, our attendees.
Some of our attendees had lost children very recently; others were mourning less recent loss as are Linda, Lucy and I. Over the course of the morning’s programme we brought each of our children into the room with words, tears, anecdotes, photographs and even some laughter as we shared our stories.
We talked of individual tools for managing our grief, such as creativity, sport, spiritual learning, reading, writing …. Whatever works for each of us.
We shared our feelings around our children’s peers and siblings and the wider family, and how we can manage all the differing emotions and reactions that we encounter.
We discussed the need to find things that rest our mind from the pain that is always there.
We emphasised the importance of finding our way out of the grey fog of early, monochrome grief, back into the colourful world again, to ultimately sustain us and lift our spirits.
We spoke of the use of social media to keep the memories of our children alive.
We managed to laugh at how our children would view their ‘ancient’ parents keeping abreast of Facebook and Twitter, but we agreed that these provide a platform for communication, in particular with our children’s friends, who most definitely do not forget them.
Those of us who lost a child to an accident spoke of our immense and traumatic shock at having a child ‘here one minute and gone the next’.
It was very interesting to hear the viewpoint of one of our attendees who recently lost her son to cancer, who said,
“The devastating shock of my loss is no different to yours. Even though it was clinically spelled out to me that he would die, I still expected, prayed for and anticipated the miracle that would keep my son alive. My shock was as great as it is for those parents faced with the sudden arrival of the policeman at the door – and what that signifies”.
I have long believed that every parent who suffers the loss of a child has a degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. After all, what can possibly be more traumatic than the loss of a child, however it happens?
But this attendee’s words certainly brought (to me at any rate) a new realisation of the impact of grief regardless of the circumstances.
We enjoyed a guided meditation that encompassed all the colours of the rainbow before we broke for lunch.
Our afternoon commenced with a brainstorming session to enable us to be mindfully creative in colouring in a mandala (a symmetrical design bounded by a circle). Our wonderful, creative artistic director Lucy led us through the presentation. Lucy based the mandala tutorial on information in a book that she has used herself and recommends: ‘Return to Wholeness: Embracing Body, Mind, and Spirit in the Face of Cancer’ by David Simon MD.
The blank mandala template is divided into four areas, which for the workshop purposes represented:
- The Core of our being,
- grief emotions,
- physical messages
- survival tools
The results of our discussions quickly took up a whole page, with words ranging from spirit, faith and hope, to devastation, pain, confusion through depression and exhaustion to support, love, empowerment and guidance.
We very much enjoyed sitting in harmony working on the colouring and painting of our mandalas. After the allotted time, they were pinned up on a screen for all to see.
Linda said, “I was working so close up to my mandala and then when Lucy took them and displayed them on the screen I realised how different it looked from a distance…. just a totally different perspective, and it made me think that we can never see the complete picture.
We see a small part of it and sometimes with the benefit of time and space we see how certain things have fitted into a bigger pattern …
And our grief journey is no different, we keep on taking small steps and sometimes when we turn and look back we realise we have come such a long way”.
The striking thing about the mandalas was their individuality; each of us had the same template and the same information, but we all reflected a different interpretation, which mirrors the experience of many life events and in particular the individuality of each person’s grieving process.
After a relaxing walk in the grounds we assembled in the sanctuary chapel. We were led in an uplifting and beautiful meditation which allowed for peaceful reflection. We spoke our children’s names into the rooms once again and all received a few minutes of healing to leave us restored and calm at the end of a very special day.
We all hope that by providing workshops for the bereaved, we can show that it is possible to move forward in living with loss. We aim to demonstrate ways in which using a holistic approach of tool gathering, through amassing mental, physical and spiritual aids can be immensely helpful to everyone.
It is hoped that we will hold further workshops and we are considering expanding the programme to suit anyone who has experienced bereavement, not just those who have lost children.
If anyone is interested in taking this further forward, please contact me directly.