Healer, Heal Thyself

Mask for a Young Person, ©2005, H. Hunter

I was determined to try and make this week's post about something other than the bereavement group but I underestimated the power of the group to affect me. I thought I'd learned how to leave the group behind me when it was over for the evening, ready to absorb myself in whatever awaited me next. We're such forgetful creatures, we humans.

Forgetful perhaps, but I think something else is at work here. The longer one does this work, the more one tunes in. You learn when to speak, when to wait in silence, when to make eye contact, and when to lay down your tools and acknowledge the force of the wave crashing over you.

This week we made clay grief masks. I love introducing this process. We pound the clay, tear it to bits, reassemble it and poke holes in it. By this time, I'm sure you've guessed we're not following the orthodox method of kneading clay to remove the air bubbles. No matter. People love it. Permission to pound the clay to bits has had tables absolutely vibrating.

Watching their faces last night as they worked affected me deeply;  eye sockets became deeper,  eyebrows arched higher and tears were etched into the clay.

The next day I had a headache of monster proportions. "What's up with this?" I wondered,  checking off my mental "self care" list: eating--check, sleeping--check, exercising--yeah. Nevertheless, cracking a smile seemed like just that. An impossibility.

Halfway into the day, I felt tears stinging my eyes. I sought the refuge of my office and called my husband, wondering between snuffles what was wrong with me. After some probing, oh yeah, the group. That little thing about being gentle, going easy with myself. Permission to cry was what I needed and what I received.

But that was only half of the equation. Today in art group, I found the other half. As we sketched large ghosts on white paper with oil pastels, we drew small things inside the ghosts that move us or scare us. Besides bright purple pigtails, my own ghost had a broken heart and dragged a long set of chains. As heavy as the chains appeared, their acknowledgment lightened my load considerably. Putting the burden of that grief that I was carrying onto paper, gave me comfort in a way I often espouse though perhaps too rarely allow myself to experience.