I was preparing for my storytelling event, Standing in Truth, in two months. I practiced at home alone in my bedroom knowing I wasn’t quite ready to share those precious hours with my dad with my husband yet. Now it was time to share it with my coach, Jerry.
“Just beautiful. Try it again”, Jerry said. I stood there in disbelief wondering how he could ask me to articulate those heart-breaking moments I watched my father in his hospital bed struggle to breathe just three days before he actually took his last breath.
And how could he judge my account of that afternoon as beautiful? I wept and struggled for breath myself. My grief washed over me again and again in the retelling and it felt like I would drown in it.
However Jerry held the space for me, mourned with me, and lent me his strength enabling me to continue.
So retell it I did over and over. Jerry urged me to listen to the recording of our practice session. When I finally found the courage to do that, I was amazed.
Yes, I heard myself sobbing and struggling to catch my breath as I spoke. But I also recognized strength – strength in vulnerability. I heard courage in the timber of my voice. I realized then that while I was besieged by my grief I was also standing firm on my own two feet.
That emboldened me. It encouraged me to practice over and over again.
No Longer Bad or Shameful
Each time I told the story and allowed my grief to wash over me I knew with greater certainty that I would not drown in it. Sure! I was very sad but I could no longer judge the experience as bad or shameful.
I was simply feeling my humanity and baring my soul and it was beautiful to behold and experience.
Standing In Truth
On February 21, 2015, I told my story before an audience. The event was called Standing in Truth – A Storytelling Experience because that’s exactly what happened. I stood in the truth of my humanity and took 35 people on a journey with me and my father through his last days.
The audience experienced all of my emotions – my fear, my helplessness, and my grief. Their vulnerability was palpable. They reported that they saw their loved ones in my story and processed their own emotions as we journeyed together. It was cathartic for us all.
There was a surprising return on investment from those many hours of practice. No longer was I devastated by the loss of my father. I gained mastery over that experience.
For so many years I had equated being emotional and vulnerable with weakness and deemed them both worthy of shame. I apologized when I cried in front of others, even my dearest friends.
Through the practice and performance I learned that there is no need to apologize for showing my humanity. Emotion is a part of the human condition.
“Grief is a fact of life”
Yet many of us grieve in silence or alone because most don’t know how to deal with us when we are raw and besieged by it. So they wipe our tears and tell us not to cry. They admonish us to be thankful because our loved one is no longer suffering and in a better place. They want us to get over it and move on so they can be comfortable again in our presence.
So we try to keep a lid on it and get through our days until grief retreats into the background of our lives or we stuff it down somewhere deep inside us and keep it hidden away.
Grief Came Out Of The Closet That Day
I have learned many lessons and devised tools to help me navigate the seas of grief since then.
I am here to share them with you and share your grief experiences if you’ll allow me that privilege. Don’t journey alone. Come out of the grief closet. I am here to hold the space with you.