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Community Grief

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Clear Mourning, and I, believe that it is not your grief, or my grief but in fact our grief.  

When I watched the love and outpouring of support for the families killed in the helicopter with Kobe Bryant, I noticed how willing the community of grievers was to mourn openly.  I noted that this openness/vulnerability around grief doesn’t exist in situations when we feel alone in our grief, or that it is my grief or your grief.  I wonder why it’s easier to for our culture to openly cry at the gates of the Staples Center than when we are dealing with a personal loss- so often doing so behind closed doors, and alone.  

My first idea was that we (our American culture) are more wiling to peel back the curtain on our own grief if we are not an outlier, if we are among a group of peers behaving in the same way and in a place where we can truly connect to the shared grief experience.   I jumped to how my own grief was profoundly shaped by being with those who allowed for a shared grief experience.  I thought about how Clear Mourning is setting out to teach others how to share the grief experience. 

How can we make it our grief?  

Another spark of thought that showed up was how interesting it is that a culture is willing to grieve, vulnerably and in public for a person they’d likely never met.  Why?  Why is it easier to grieve a celebrity versus our own loved ones.  I can’t help but wonder if there is a sense of immortality surrounding celebrities or at least a myth of ultimate protection for their lives…is it more sad to us as a culture to know that no person has the ultimate protection?  Maybe part of the grief is also fear?  If it can happen to them, then it can happen to me mentality.  

I can’t help but go back to the ease (I use the word ease loosley) of a shared grief experience.  A safe place to be sad, grieving and seeking a community of people who are sharing your grief experience.  Celebrity status brought our culture together to grieve.  What would it look like if we brought community grieving to your life and for your losses?  

I think the whole process would shift.  I think a lot of people in grief would show up and grieve with their community.  I think shifts take dedication and time and that’s no reason to give up.  

At a seminar I recently attended, David Kessler shared the following example of shared grief in a community: There is a community in Australia who shuffles their belongings around when a member of their community dies.  They do this to show the loved ones that all life has changed in some way, and for the whole community.  

In my Darkest Days, I was tremendously supported, and yet I think there could’ve been comfort in those closest to me showing, in some tangible way, that their lives had too been forever changed.  It’s so touchy because those who love me most were giving me the tender freedom to have MY grief, MY loss and MY heartbreak.  I think there was fear that any interjection of their own grief would have been in competition (I use the world competition loosely) with mine…I don’t know for sure but my sense is that I was yearning for ways in which my dearest people could express their deep sadness, not for me, but with me…They showed up with love, kindness, compassion and more.  Perhaps, they, like our society has taught us to believe, saw most of the grief as mine.  I even remember family members saying “I just feel so awful for you” and a part of me wanted to remind them that this tragedy, this unbelievable loss of our sweet Marley, had too happened to them.  I didn’t though.  I didn’t because I knew they weren’t doing anything other than their best and what they’d been taught.  

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