Tomorrow marks the first day of the summer session for my eCourse that I am teaching now for the 3rd time. I create this class last year as a way to share much of what I had learned in my own grieving process about creativity. For four weeks, my students will be diving into lessons and creative prompts in writing, photography, and painting, with the purpose of expressing their grief and honoring their story and their loved ones.
Teaching is not a natural role for me, in fact it still makes me quite uncomfortable. I’m a writer, and that is where I feel most at home in sharing ideas. And while my course is mostly written, it does require interacting in a Facebook group and some video recordings. In other words - it requires me to be vulnerable too. Ugh!
So far, each time I run this course, there is a part of me that resists the call to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that part of me that wishes she didn’t have all these lessons to share. The part of me that wants to just be “normal” and be doing work that is in no way related to grief. The part of me that is always a little bit scared to connect to others at first.
But then I get emails from women who want to sign up, but are nervous and need a little encouragement. Or from women who are in a bad spot financially and wondering if there is some way they can take the course still. Or women who have had major losses that were not loved ones, and wonder if the course will apply to them. They share a little of their stories with me before even beginning the class… and I am reminded of what an honor it is to be in the space of those who are grieving. I am reminded of how incredibly brave these people are - how much courage and strength and energy it takes to say “yes” to something like an eCourse when you are deep in your own pain. I am reminded that they are willing to be vulnerable with me… and suddenly I realize I have no choice but to be vulnerable with them too. Suddenly I am reminded of how precious it is to share that kind of true vulnerability with another person. Most of all, it reminds me of all the women I met the first time I went to Camp Widow - the ones that showed me the way and gave me hope. The ones that held a lantern along the dark and terrifying path of grief for me, so that I did not have to walk completely alone in the dark...
It is then that I finally stop resisting and instead start into this project fully once more. It is then that I remember that this course is my baby, one of my most precious creations that I am still perfecting in it’s 3rd run. As I’ve been going back over all the lessons and content the past few weeks, tweaking little things here and there, I am beginning to see a shift in the tone of the course. Originally, I felt something was just a tad off. Perhaps it was all a bit too serious or somber, and not uplifting enough? Whatever it was, something wasn’t quite tuned in I felt. As I finish up the last little tweaks this weekend though, it is starting to have the essence I have wanted it to have. It is starting to feel more empowering and uplifting.
I re-recorded the welcome video a few days ago… which is my least favorite thing to tackle. I hate doing videos and feel terribly awkward about this. But after I reviewed the original video I’d done last year I realized - wow, I have changed, and this doesn’t represent me or the course very well anymore! As I recorded the new video, there was a distinctly new confidence inside me. I felt much more relaxed and even decided to just wing it instead of going off a script. As I get the video and all the other little changes finished up this weekend, I am seeing that my own personal growth is directly reflected into the course itself. It is better than ever this time around, and there is a wonderful sense of pride for having stuck with it when I have really doubted myself many times with this venture.
What has made this 3rd session even more meaningful for me is that I am launching it on Monday, which is Drew’s 5 year death anniversary. My original plan a year ago had been to launch it on this date, but I ran behind schedule and ended up launching in July. The fact that the 12th landed on a Monday made it perfect this year. It is wonderful to have something like this on such a hard personal day for me. Being able to focus on helping others feel less alone is certainly a meaningful way to spend the day… and to spend this new life.
It isn’t always easy to show up in service to others or to receive the lessons grief wants to teach us. I think for many of us, sometimes we just want to pretend we never experienced this whole awful thing in the first place. We want to close off because closing off feels safer and less risky. But we can’t unknow what we know. And we can’t erase what’s happened to us. Despite my frequent bouts of resistance, I am grateful that my grief story continues to push me to open my heart more. It is grief that reminds me how fleeting life is, and grief that pushes me to live more fully, love more deeply, and keep on reaching for all the joy I can get out of life. It is grief that reminds me that fear is not a good enough reason not to say “yes” to life.
Image Credit: "Iron Will" ©Sarah Treanor, from "Still, Life" - a self portrait series on grief.