Grief Tending

Sarah Pletts
Written by Sarah Pletts

Grief Tending is a Way to Care for Our Broken Hearts

Why do we need Grief Tending?

Leaning into how we feel, giving time and attention to our emotions, can be a helpful way to process loss. In Grief Tending we do this by sharing with and witnessing others.

In many contemporary cultures, youth is prized. Social media tempts us to show only our best selves, and people often try to think positively in the face of difficulty. It’s easy to forget that our lives are part of a natural cycle, that has limits. There are beginnings and endings, as well as challenges and triumphs in between. Celebrating the ups with friends and family is welcome, but allowing space for our lows with others is more uncommon. Our expressions of grief are often hidden away in private.

Who would benefit from Grief Tending?

A Grief Tending event can offer us the space to be seen and heard without any pressure to solve or mend how we feel.

People often think that grief is reserved for the bereaved. But life brings us many curve balls and transitions, as well as the deaths of people you love. Every loss is significant, and may make us feel tender.

While some people come to a Grief Tending workshop with a broken heart, others may be dealing with depression, or be dealing with layers of disappointment, regret, absence, overwhelm or fear. It isn’t necessary to bring a specific loss to benefit from having time, in a supportive group workshop.

Grief and trauma recovery

Grief is a whole landscape of feelings that may include anxiety, anger, guilt, relief and numbness, amongst many other responses. It is an individual journey that doesn’t necessarily follow a neat route through the Stages of Grief originally proposed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.

Many cultures have had ways to be with grief, but others have lost the elders and knowledge to show us ways to digest our pain. Grief Tending is one kind of grief work, that brings together wisdom from different traditions and teachers including Sobonfu Somé, Francis Weller, Joanna Macy, and Martin Prechtel.

Current research and theories about trauma recovery provide a new understanding of what happens when we don’t have mechanisms to deal with trauma and grief. Gabor Maté sums this up in his recent film ‘The Wisdom of Trauma‘.

Trauma involves a lifelong pushing down, a tremendous expenditure of energy, and to not feeling the pain. As we heal, that same energy is liberated for life and for being in the present. So, the energy of trauma can be transformed into the energy of life.

Gabor Maté

What does Grief Tending involve?

Grief Tending events happen both online and in person. A short 4 Hour event will allow someone to dip into the experience, whereas in a longer event there is more time to unfold complex stories. A ‘trauma-sensitive’ group will allow participants to work with the exercises in their own way. Groups include guided practices to connect and soothe, as well as a central part where feelings might come forward.

A workshop can be a powerful shared experience, that can help us to bear our suffering. In a group we may learn how to be with others’ losses too. Participants witness one another, and may find more kindness for themselves and others. This approach to working with grief works well along-side other therapeutic approaches.

Finding the balance between grief and support

When we are settled enough, with some support in place, it is possible to begin to explore grief. Finding support is necessary in order to work with our difficult edges. But we need to have balance in life, to spend time doing the things that we love, remember the people who inspire us, and the places that nourish us too.

In Grief Tending, we encourage connecting with support before and after gently approaching grief. In this way, some of our ‘energy of life’, may resurface. When we dare to face our feelings, it can reconnect us with ourselves, and those around us.

More about Grief Tending and upcoming workshops.

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