How do you heal?

Our family is in the throes of an unexpected and heart-rending loss. 

I have been thrown into the very material I study and work with in my spiritual care practice. While I knew this multidimensional experience was happening, Rachel Naomi Remen’s book, Kitchen Table Wisdom: The Stories That Heal pointed it out to me very clearly. She writes, “… each of us heals in our own way” (p.18), which seems so obvious yet is so critical to understand. I feel myself having two different experiences—I am in the grief itself and observing the grieving processes of my husband, daughter, and myself. 

None of us is yet at the point of healing. We are caught in the liminal space of grief, and I feel fortunate that I have tools to use and to share for working with the range of thoughts and feelings. We experience the sadness, tears, desire to go back in time, the memories, and the longing. And we also step away in an effort to create a respite or maybe some “normalcy.” Just as Remen writes, I have noticed that we are processing—being rattled by and expressing our grief—using our skills and working with it (with varying degrees of success). I feel especially lucky to have studied grief (of course, there is more work to do), to have been a companion to others experiencing grief, and to have my work inform my experience now. I can understand my thoughts and feelings more easily and have resources and methods for supporting myself and my family.

We all experience loss. Often, it is passed over, unacknowledged, downplayed, or unrecognized. We don’t know how to let grief enter our lives (though sometimes we have no choice as we are overcome by it). There are many reasons—it hurts, we are not well-practiced in the language of expressing our feelings, and it feels like we may not find a way out of the jungle of our feelings if we open ourselves up to it. While it’s understandable to turn away from pain, suffering, tears, loneliness, and more, we must find ways to do so. Fortunately, there are so many resources and opportunities for support. We need courage to find and use them. We must remember to be gentle with ourselves. Grief is not something we “get over.” Over time, we often find a new path forward.

Here are some of the books I’ve discovered. Of course, there are many excellent podcasts, too. (I prefer to linger over passages and so generally prefer reading.)

  • Altars, Day Shildkret
  • Bearing the Unbearable, Joanne Cacciatore
  • Bittersweet, Susan Cain*
  • Finding the Words, Colin Campbell
  • I’m Not a Mourning Person, Kris Carr
  • Grief is Love, Marisa Renee Lew 
  • Sacred Sendoffs, Sarah A. Bowen
  • The Grieving Brain, Mary Frances O’Connor
  • The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller

*As you can see, I am a (frequent) visitor to the local library.

Writing/journaling, finding poetry, looking for prayers/blessings/chants, making certain types of impermanent earth art and talismans, and creating rituals (as simple as lighting a candle every day and making space to remember) support my grieving process. I believe that the depth of my grief is a reflection of my love. That is a reminder to me to endeavor to embrace it.

I feel so fortunate to have a close circle of friends with whom I can share. I am also grateful that I have developed the capacity to decide clearly with whom and how I will share my grief. 

This unexpected event clearly points out that I must remember—people carry so much we never see or know about because it is not the time or place, or we are not the people with whom to share their pain, sorrow, or suffering. It reminds me to offer grace, kindness, and compassion as much as possible. 

Deep Dive into Challenging Content and Processes… It’s Awesome!

Last week, I devoted five days to a retreat at the Omega Institute to explore mortality (in general and mine in particular), create remembrance gifts for family and friends, and craft a legacy project. I returned home, having had the time and space for deep reflection and creation.

(Photos from Long Pond Lake, the labyrinth, and the Sanctuary.)

This week, I continue my journey into project design and development, leveraging my experiences at Omega, my readings, research, and previous programming to create a new offering. The summer is off to a fabulous start!

What about you? What’s on your calendar?
What are you doing that is exciting, fun, different, necessary, and/or …?
What’s your plan for these summer months, and how’s it working?

Next month, I’m off to another retreat as I am stepping into the Portland Institute’s Art-Assisted Grief Therapy program. With my chapter about the integration of visual practitioner work into my chaplaincy internship completed, my article for the AI (Appreciative Inquiry) Practitioner about AI in “the wild”/real life well underway, and my second article on integrating Appreciative Inquiry, leadership, and visualization mapped out—I am excited! The end of July will bring, Urban Visual Storytelling, and the opportunity to sharpen my skills in graffiti with Ramiro Davaro-Comas along with fellow visual practitioners, Sketchnoters, and folks who are game to try something new*. Plus, the IFVP Summit will give me the opportunity to see colleagues from around the world and to share one of the bikablo methods of storytelling. The end of summer/early fall holds a trip to Auckland, NZ, to deliver Discover the Joy of Zentangle + Intro to Design for Trauma-Informed Teaching at the International Teaching Artist Collaborative conference. 

I’d love to celebrate your ongoing learning and development—both personal and professional. What are you up to this summer? Or maybe summer is your time to recharge, and fall will be your time to dive back into PD. What’s your thinking? I’d love to know!

 

 

 

 

* Find out more here!

What’s your kryptonite?

Mine is writing my bio…

Do you ever find it challenging to describe how you came to be where you are at this moment in your career and what you do now concisely and clearly? (I wonder if my years as a consultant and desire to learn and apply my learning work against me.) Of course, every time I write a brief biography, I tailor it to the audience, so the iterations are legion. (Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole.)

At this moment 

I’ve just completed a chapter about my choice as a chaplain to create hand-drawn illustrations to enrich my work in a hospital setting. The visuals developed were used in several ways— to support patients’ understanding of their medical options and for my own processing of and learning from my daily experiences. This almost 2,800-word piece will be part of a book on Graphic Medicine, which is about healthcare professionals and professionals using comics in their work. As you can imagine, I must write a bio of 100 words. I find myself stymied.

As I review my bios from the past few years—created for conference proposals, websites, presentations, and applications— I appreciate their specificity and feel they are insufficient in this instance. I want people to understand the fullness of who I am, and while labels or titles help, they don’t always seem to create a coherent picture because of my range of work.  Either I feel I am only revealing a slice of myself (which might be most appropriate for the task) or believe that I’m offering a cornucopia that might just cause confusion.

Which challenges do you face in writing a brief biography for various projects, work, and opportunities? What advice do you have to offer?

The half-dozen bios at my fingertips don’t quite fit the bill! Honestly, all I want to do is draw a picture of myself surrounded by titles and descriptions of aspects of my work. Or maybe share one of my visual bios that includes my education, varied work history, and ongoing professional development. And yet, that was not what was asked of me. And while I need to draw an avatar, it doesn’t feel multifaceted enough. 

Generally, I follow this plan: These are my titles/positions, here’s my foundation/academic background, this is what I’ve done with it/my experience, and this is the impact of my work. 

Here are two of the four I have drafted for this particular situation based on research into author bios… the first of which is too long yet tells more about me.

DRAFT 1

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She companions people as they creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care.

Jill helped open a domestic violence shelter, directed two anti-sexual violence programs, volunteered on a medical service trip in the Himalayas, and recently designed a trauma-informed program for teaching artists. She’s a lifelong New Yorker, world traveler, and artist. 

She holds a doctoral degree in education and was a teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City. Her consultancy work focuses on training design and development, graphic facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and visual thinking skills. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center. (124 words)

DRAFT 2

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She helps people creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care. Her approach centers on nurturing people’s inner strengths, resilience, and ability to become the artists of their own lives. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center.

She holds a doctoral degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her consultancy work focuses on graphic facilitation, training design and development, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and teaching visual thinking skills. She is a lifelong New Yorker and world traveler. (100 words)

I need to send off my bio by Thursday not only to meet a deadline but also to stop “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”/tinkering at the edges of it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about them (even if you write to me after tomorrow). And if you have suggestions (especially around clarity and conciseness), I’m all ears. I am happy to return the favor should you want an extra pair of eyes on your bio. Thank you!