For the past week, I have poured myself into the creation of my new grief workshop. It’s finally getting real now. Which is scary and exciting all at the same time. The fundraiser is over, and by the end, I raised $1700 to help with the creation of all of this. Amazingly, 95% of those donations were from widowed people. None of my close non-widow friends donated, or really have even bothered to ask about this whole endeavor. Only one of my family members really has. This fact is not lost on me. I have done my best not to get bogged down by who ISN’T supporting me, and instead have been focusing on who IS.
To have the support of any kind is awesome, but to have the support of people who are going through one of the darkest times in their life… that is something entirely different. It is deeper. It says that they not only believe in you, but they understand what you’re trying to do. It says that - even in their darkest time - they still have the heart to reach out and help you too. And that is one thing death does for us, isn’t it? It’s one of the gifts we’re given for living through this agony… our own broken hearts just want to help someone else.
I don’t even know how it is possible that when we are in our most broken and fragile state, that this is the time so many of us reach out to help others. Is it some instinct that takes over? Does our gut know that helping others will help us? That healing or supporting another will heal and support us too?
Somehow, before all this death came into my life, I was pretty good at turning a blind eye to other people and their problems or successes. I’ll admit, I was much more closed off and selfish. My mantra for most of my life has been “you keep your problems over there. I’ll keep mine over here, and we’ll all be happy”. How awful, really!
Losing Drew broke me. But as they say, it also broke me open. Before I knew it, my heart was bleeding out to support others in any way I could. All I knew, is that helping someone else felt good. It felt less broken. I started to imagine myself as shattered, with pieces spread out for miles. And each person I encountered may have found one of my broken pieces, somewhere out there, lying beyond my reach. As I reached out to others, opened my heart, and allowed them to open theirs, it felt like they were giving me back one of the many thousands of shards that had been too far away for me to find on my own.
That’s still how I imagine this whole thing… as a gradual picking up of the pieces that we all do. And sometimes, we help each other get back the ones that are out of reach. Sure, they are put back together in a different formation. And yes, some of the pieces we decide to leave behind for new ones. But over time, we do rebuild. And we absolutely cannot rebuild some of those parts without the help of others. Maybe I have a few of your pieces with me, and you have a few of mine with you, and neither of us even know it yet. And that’s why it’s so important to continue to keep our hearts open on this journey. Especially after years have gone by and we are back on our feet somewhat. I am finding, now, in a more healed place in my life, that old temptation to want to close my heart off again. Protect it again… unnecessarily so.
And that is why this grief workshop is so important to me. Not only do I believe fiercely in the power of getting people creating from their pain, but also in getting people to exchange those broken bits in a safe, comforting community. I hope what I have to share about making meaning from our grief will help others, but I also know… it will help me to learn from everyone too. I am smart enough to know now, that no matter how healed you are, each person you meet has the chance to give you back one of your broken pieces.
So as I plug away at these early stages, I am working hard to keep all of that within my heart. This whole thing is new, and scary, and challenging. I have never taken on a role like this in my life… typically happy to fade into the background and just do my own thing, this is far out of my comfort zone! It is requiring every ounce of belief I have in myself to not spiral into self-doubt on a daily basis. But with every day, my confidence is growing. This might be, in fact, the first time I have ever felt like I wasn’t getting in my own way. Ever. And that’s exciting. And largely due to the support from the widowed community… largely due to every one of my missing pieces that this fiercely brave group of folks has brought back to me in these past 4 years, and is still bringing me each day.
So when so I’m lost in piles of research on art therapy... so much that my coffee goes cold 5 different times before I drink it… and I’m spending countless hours alone in a cafe, glued to my laptop and notebooks and ideas… and I feel like I’ve not talked to a single friend or family member for far too long because of how busy I am… I don’t really feel alone at all. I feel all of my widowed community standing right there beside me, cheering me on, pushing me ahead, telling me I can make this thing great.
As we always say, this widowed club of ours is one that none of us ever wanted to belong to, but it is quite honestly the most incredible community I have ever been a part of… with the most fearless, and fierce, sense of support I’ve ever known. I can only hope one day to write an article that will go far beyond this blog that will articulate to the rest of the world just how incredible, and powerful, this widowed community is. Here's to us... the "broken hearts club".