Tonight marked the end of my first group at Our House.
In January of 2011, in the Year of the YES, I said yes to a request to begin formal training to work as a group leader in grief support. I had been volunteering for them, doing some medical panels and such. But this was big and real and scary and I was not at all sure I could do it. But it was the year of the YES and so that was what I said.
In February of 2011 I got my first group, my first partner, and my first real sense of hope since Tom died. I had gone through a similar group myself and it saved my life at the time. It kept me coming back to a group of people who were experiencing the same thing I was. It kept me focussed on my grief and ways to move through it. And it worked, amazingly well. The thing about grief is that is it so fluid and ever-changing. And it never ends. Big grief never completely goes away, how can it when the person who died was so important? And that’s what I understood after my group and accepted. That I would never “get over” Tom; that I would always miss him, and that I could move ahead with my life even so.
And, to a huge extent. That’s what happened. Except (there’s that BUT…), I didn’t deal well with those feelings, and I practiced a way to get rid of them, until, of course, that didn’t work anymore. because you can’t hide from feelings, you can’t. You can numb them and brush them aside, postpone them and try and drink them away. But they don’t go away, they sit, and wait, and get twisted into a much more complicated thing.
And that’s what I finally saw doing the training, taking the time to understand and learn about grief. And, especially, most importantly, leading the group and helping others through the same thing, their grieving.
Service. Bearing witness.
They say in AA that you can’t give away what you haven’t got. It’s the same with the grief groups.
I sat in those rooms and knew the questions to ask, when to listen, speak, interrupt, re-direct….I knew because I had been there, was there, just further along. And in doing that , in holding the hope for those 6 strangers in a room, I found my own hope. I stopped drinking. I felt my feelings, cried with them and for them even as I helped them . Talked with my wonderful co-leader, also a widow, and cried and made plans for how we could do service, how we could help someone else, because we knew.
I spend a lot of time, like we all do, down-playing what I am capable of. I never think I’m enough…..good enough, pretty enough, young enough, whatever-enough. That is something that, sadly, many people share, that feeling of “less than”.
But this group. This work. I am enough, more than enough, better than enough. I am good at it, and I love doing it.
And as I sat and listened and held the hope for those people , that they would get through this darkness, that there was still life worth living, I found my own hope again. Hope for the same things, for life, for love for better…for better.
I cannot express the feeling of gratitude for the people in that room, their bravery, grace and vulnerability and how they led me back to my own. I did outside work and continue to, but that room in Woodland Hills every other Tuesday for the last 18 months saved me. Gave me back a part of me that I felt was lost. The part that could help, that could think of anyone but myself, that could be effective, that could hope.
That could hope.
You can’t live without hope. Everything else may be gone, but when you lose hope you lose yourself and the feeling that you want to be in this world. When you lose hope you die.
I am not afraid of death, but I no longer want to die. I haven’t felt like I wanted to die since I started this work, which coincided with my getting sober. The grief work started first, then I got sober.
I can never be grateful for why I am here, but, oh, I am so grateful for a sense of purpose.
A sense of hope.