I need to confess that this particular blog entry is a shameless promotion, but it’s for a very good cause: a documentary film called Voices of Grief, Honoring the Sacred Journey. The film weaves personal stories from those who have lost loved ones with a variety of insights from respected grief educators, authors, doctors, and spiritual leaders to explore the experience of grief in the 21st century. As many of you know, I have historically worked one on one with patients and clients to optimize whole health and wellness but am now expanding what I do in order to help more people through various forms of media, online webinars (coming soon), educational events and public speaking in addition to my individual consults. When a grief educator and one of the executive producers, Kathy Sparnins, invited me, in November of 2013, to join her and co-producer, Deborah Collins, in the making of this documentary, I jumped at the opportunity. I believe that this film is vitally important, and I welcomed the opportunity to help bring the concept to fruition in a format that can potentially reach millions of people.
Grief is stressful. In fact, in the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, a tool used to measure stress associated with common life events, the death of a spouse is number one; the death of a close family member is among the top five. In the film, we acknowledge such issues as difficulty communicating about grief and cultural expectations to “get over it” quickly, touch upon the physical effects that grief and suppression of grief can have on the body, and explore the value of such things as ritual, art, and telling one’s story in coping with loss. However, although the film offers ideas and suggestions for both the bereaved and their supporters, it is not a paint by number guide to grieving. Rather, it is a recognition of and tribute to each individual’s unique navigation through the intersection of love and loss.
Grief is generally thought of as negative, but the experience of grief is complex. Living through it, we are changed. New perspectives on life are forged from the fire of loss. As we work to come to terms with a death, honor the love that remains, and integrate the experience, our view of self, of life, and connection to others is transformed. Allowing expression of that transformation through action can give rise to gifts of altruism, acts of compassion, creation of art, and opportunities to change- not only who we are, but the world in which we live. Hopefully, with gentleness, mindfulness, and acceptance of the grief experience— including all its heartbreak and challenges— we can ultimately open the path to a healthier, more compassionate and loving society.
Thank you to everyone joining us for the world premiere on March 6. We are overcome by the response. Our venue of 750 seats is filled to capacity.
For those of you who won’t be there, we’ll soon offer complimentary streaming access of the film to all US hospice organizations.