Since experiencing significant and sudden loss at an early age and the pain, confusion, and trauma that followed, I’ve been called to supporting young people in their grief.
As a writer, teacher, listener, and indigenous spiritual practitioner, I am devoted to grief vulnerability because it’s what I can do to help shift grieving culture. I remind people that they don’t have to hide it, that it’s normal, that it’s hard, that it’s not linear, and also, that it’s survivable.
When I saw COVID Grief Network’s (CGN) call for volunteers to offer supportive listening to young adults in grief, I saw it as my chance to do more, to help relieve some of the ever growing isolation I was witnessing. As a grief group facilitator for CGN, I meet weekly with a group of young adults who have all lost someone to COVID. I provide light facilitation and open each conversation with a question to get us started; however, it’s the young adults in the group who really shape and maintain the energy in that space. By sharing and listening, they find relief and community in others who really understand the nuances and particular pains of grieving a COVID loss. I listen and I keep the conversation flowing. I offer guiding questions for each session, but also honor whatever topics arise: vaccine access, anger, family and friends not showing up, dealing with the estate, and the thoughts that continue to intrude. This space is sacred. It’s an honor to show up and be able to help support their pain and acknowledge their experiences. I’m deeply appreciative of their vulnerability and willingness to share.
And, like many who hold grief space–and as someone with my own experience of loss–their stories and experiences touch something deep in me. When I hear their stories of the last time they spoke to their person, I remember what it was like to be in that hospital room in my own darkest hour. Though I am years out and so much therapy away from the shock, my nervous system is still impacted by these memories. When grief meets trauma, nothing is linear.
So, how do I offer my greatest gift while protecting my energy, and my own grief? I resource. I ask for help. After checking in with my therapists, I developed a practice. I take 5-10 minutes before each group to build an altar of my strength and resilience, rooted in my intention to offer support. I do a visualization to ground my energy into the earth. I increase my self-care through meditation, breathwork, drinking enough water, sharing my experience with my fellow CGN organizers, and, of course, attending the sibling loss grief group I’m a member of.
I fortify myself to offer something that blends my desires and skills. I will always be grieving my sister. I am grateful I have found a way to be both at once: a person surviving loss and a person offering grief support.