Walking into Autumn

The Visitor, ©2005, Hannah Hunter, SoulCollage®, 8" x 5"

It's Fall again. The students have flowed into our town like salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Its 99 degrees and rising. I drive downtown in search of a icey treat. The frozen yogurt shops have lines streaming backwards all the way to the "tart original." In order to slake my hunger, I grab a couple of the tiny pleated paper cups, fill them up with pecan praline and french vanilla and slurp. 

I'm preparing myself. The next day is the beginning of a group that I help to facilitate each fall and winter, our hospital's "Young Adult Bereavement Group." Tucked into that title and invisible to all except myself and the other facilitator is the word "art." 

When we first conceived of this group back in 2008, we wanted to create a space for people who didn't quite fit into a childrens' bereavement group, nor on the other hand, in an adult group. 

Because the alternating need for privacy and sharing in this age group, 17 to 24, switches on and off like a strobe light, art bridges the gap--literally between silence and speech and figuratively, between childhood and adulthood. 

I approach the group with caution, knowing that for the next 8 weeks, I'm immersing myself in the multiple worlds of these losses--attending to nuances so subtle that they could easily pass unnoticed. It's a prolonged meditation on attachment and the slow, inevitable letting go.

It's exactly this sort of attention to detail, as if we were all creating an exquisite painting, that allows me to follow the thread of each individual story, pulling here, tweaking there, hoping that in some way, the unfolding of their stories slowly, almost imperceptibly, leads to healing. The process reminds me of a biblical quote that I read many years ago in a yoga publication, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

These words conjure in a haunting way, the reality of loss--that as we make our way through--or perhaps more accurately, fumble our way through, we can only cling to something we cannot see--the hope that there is something on the other side of loss.