Thursday, May 7, 2015

Grief? A friend? Don't miss this interview

I am delighted to be interviewing Julie Keon (right) about her book What I Would Tell You this Saturday May 9 at Holland Bloorview. You can still RSVP to the event here.

Julie’s book is about raising her daughter Meredith (above with dad Tim), who was born with severe brain damage. I’ve read many memoirs about parenting a child with disabilities, but this is the first one that’s packed with deep, practical truths. When you read What I Would Tell You, get ready to feel like Julie can see into your heart and understands when your courage for what some people call 
extreme parenting has run dry. 

As I flipped through the book, so many chapter titles resonated with me. Then I hit “Befriending Grief.
 What? I’ve always resisted grief, pushed it down. The  thought of making it a friend that I welcome in for a cup of tea, as Julie suggests, was hard to imagine. Then I read the chapter and when I next felt grief I did what Julie said. And I realized that it did, indeed, change the dynamic, turning it into an act of great self-compassion. 

This is an excerpt from that chapter. Read the words carefully, and then when you feel the pain of grief, stay with it, as a friend would, follow these steps, and tell us what happens!

“Grief can be our silent companion, something to be tended and nurtured. Think of grief as a person knocking on your door who really wants to see you. They knock incessantly...When the knocking starts, instead of hiding, you can take a deep breath and welcome this person into your home. You set a few reasonable boundaries as to how much time you have to give and then you put the kettle on. You settle in for some hot tea and conversation. As the visit progresses, you notice that it isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. You are discovering that this person you had always hidden from is wise and has much to offer.”

And later:

“Trust that the deeper you allow yourself to know your grief, the deeper the joy you will feel when grief's visits get further and further apart. There is no barricade large enough to keep grief out. Welcome it with open arms, serve it warm tea and sit with it without judgment, knowing that grief will come and then it will go, as long as you give it the attention it needs.”


Some grief is supposed to be there and one can try to embrace it rather than push it away. In doing so, it can absorb and dissipate. If there weren't grief when a disaster occurs, when a loved one dies, what does that say about us?

But I don't get the metaphor of a unwanted visitor. When certain grief hits me, it's not like someone I'd prefer not to see, bu someone who will be putting a shiv in me and painfully hit the nerves. No tea kettle, but writhing on the floor waiting for help. Nope, door shut for those, and locked with a phone call for help to get rid of such a "visitor".

Hi Cath -- thanks for writing. I'm not sure what Julie would say, but I took from it that when we resist grief it becomes that much more forceful and an "unwanted visitor" who won't go away. But in welcoming it in it is in a way being gentle and compassionate with yourself and honouring your experience and the fact that your grief is understandable.