In just 3 days my fundraiser for the Meaningful Making e-course will be complete. In the past month and a half, I have raised over double my goal to begin work on making this online workshop. It will be geared towards those grieving, with the premise that students will use a combination of creative acts and storytelling in order to express their inner worlds in new ways and ultimately have a new set of tools to help them heal.
The main support I've had for creating this has been all of you, my widowed community. The very people I want to share it with and hope that it can help. I'm left with a feeling of deep overwhelm and gratitude. Having people believe in you when they themselves are in their darkest time is something so sacred. It is something I do not take lightly. You all have been my cheerleaders, and it has been more important to me than you could know.
This project is something I have had in my heart since that fateful summer in 2012 when I got the phone call that turned my world upside down. In the months and years after his death, art and creative acts truly saved me in ways nothing else has been able to… and for a long time I have wanted to share this experience in a more direct way with others.
I wasn’t ready in 2012, or in 2013 or the next two years for this project. I was still deep in my own grief, and though I wanted to step into a role of helping others, I was still too scared. This whole idea needed more time to incubate inside me. As much as I hated it, I was too raw, and wasn't ready. I’ve never taught or done much in the way of leading or facilitating groups. “Who am I to do this?” I’ve thought many times. And many more times I’ve said “I’m not ready yet” or just plain and simple: “I can’t”. But slowly, that is changing. Slowly, with all of you saying that I can, I'm starting to believe it for myself. Despite any formal training, I'm letting my intuition and my life lessons lead the way now. And that right there is the power we have to help each other.
I’ve spent almost four years now trying to explore every corner of my own grief… always trying to find the lessons I could learn from it all, so that his death would not be in vain. I have gone to therapists and counselors and life coaches. I have read countless books on grief, healing, creativity, art therapy, surviving trauma, and the like. I have a stack of journals filled with countless outpourings of love, anger, sadness, agony, screaming words, curse words, and tear-stains. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts about every aspect of this shitty path. And when words have failed me, I have turned to visual arts. In the first summer after his death… i smeared paint across large boards with my hands to express something I couldn’t understand but needed to come out. I had no idea at the time, that these techniques have been used in art therapy for many decades to help people with grief and trauma.
In 2014, I did a year-long series of self portraits exploring my own inner feelings of grief - using symbols and metaphors to express what the abstract concepts of death might look like if we could see them. This became one of the most powerful parts of my healing journey. It is the way I was able to travel into the depths of my own pain and find myself again… find myself hurt and bruised and battered, and love myself there.
All of these pieces feel like they have been leading somewhere, though I haven’t known exactly where. And somehow, this year finally feels like the year that some big new things will start. I’m feeling healed enough and strong enough to take on something this new and scary. And finally, my passion to create this course is outweighing my fear of it. Fear, it seems, is no longer a good enough excuse.
I’m not writing this today to plug my workshop or advertise, I would never want to do that here. I am sharing it because I want you to know, that no matter where you are on your own journey… there is something down the road that you will be able to use your current experience for. Your pain may be the very thing that leads you to your passion. So pay attention to your experiences. I’m not a speaker, I have no experience or background in teaching workshops of any kind. I never in my old life imagined creating courses or workshops, particularly about grieving. But here I am, taking on this entirely foreign thing, as this entirely new person I’ve become… with nothing but a wild faith and the support of widows, friends and family. All because I believe in the power of transforming our stories by helping each other, and because I’m choosing for once not to ask the question “Who am I to do this?”. Who am I NOT to?
If we keep our eyes open to the fact that each moment of pain is teaching us something about life that will help us on our journey down the road (and help someone else one day too) we will come away with an incredible bounty. Remember that, wherever you are today.
If you would like to know more about the e-course, I’ve got a mailing list over on my website where folks can sign up for updates. I’ll let you know periodically how the process of building the e-course is going, as well as when registration opens.