The Unfamiliar Path We Walk Together

The Unfamiliar Path We Walk Together

Rarely do we experience collective grief that moves beyond ourselves, our families, our communities, and across oceans.  

This past year was an exception.

While each individual visit from grief varied in depth and time, the shared experience of having met under similar circumstances gifted us with opportunities for connecting on a much deeper level. 

In pulling apart the pieces that make the experience of grief complex, I have found that love and grief are indeed connected—either one not fully existing without the other. 

As author, theologian, activist, and storyteller Stephen Jenkinson puts it, 


“love is a way of grieving that which has not yet slipped away.” 


We needn’t look far behind us to see that the things we grieve, were the things we loved first. That without having loved, we would not grieve at all.  About this most of us agree, but Stephen Jenkinson argues that love is also grief.  As a woman married to an older man and as a mother of young children, I am all too aware of the impermanence of love every time I hug my husband and snuggle my little ones to sleep.  I know this too will pass.  Yes, love is also grief – about this, I am sure.  For me, the Pandemic heightened this awareness.  It was a hard year.  At times, love and wonder had to be stolen, in seconds, minutes. . . Before moving forward on the path that follows the recent pandemic, let us glance over our shoulder at the ways in which the past year revealed our interdependence, our similarities, and our shared journey.


Reflecting on 2020

At the start of 2020, the Natural Lifemanship Institute was thriving—or so we thought. We were leading the way in the field of Equine Assisted Services, and were training practitioners in-person in Trauma-Focused EAP and Trauma-Informed EAL.  Our passion and practice was fulfilling a purpose – we were living the dream.  Truly! 

As word spread of a virus potentially impacting our communities, we believed like many others that the threat would soon disappear, as similar threats had in the past. Yet as quickly as the name Covid-19 overtook the airways, the devastating virus rocked our business, our livelihood, and the world. 

The loss was sudden, the effects longstanding, and the impact, in my opinion, lifelong. As practitioners in the field of mental health, we recognized the trauma in ourselves, and in those around us—and we responded. 

We knew the need for teachers and professionals in our field would increase as more people around the world experienced the grief of losing that which they loved—family members, friends, businesses, jobs, homes, community, celebrations, affection, and more. 

The grief was growing as quickly as the impact of Covid-19, and we evolved in response.  During lock-down, with young children at home, no childcare, and no school, our trainings intensified to meet the needs of practitioners and clients, and our courses moved online to increase accessibility and convenience, as each experience required unique accommodations.  We had to quickly let go of how we taught and connected with our students for almost 10 years and embrace the unknown.  You can read between the lines as you recall your experience during this time, but uncertainty, unrest, fear, and grief touched us all —it was surreal.   

But today Natural Lifemanship provides virtual trainings that meet the requirements for NL certification, and hosts intimate, in-person trainings throughout the country to help ease the burden of traveling in this new world. 


Lessons on grief, loss, connection and community 

The global pandemic helped to support the belief that grief and love are truly connected. 

In fact, grief permeates nearly every aspect of our lives as we move through seasons of love and loss. How do we find joy in the lingering shadow of grief that follows everything and everyone we love? In one another, and the shared experiences we have as human beings. 

While Covid-19 brought with it destruction and devastation, it also provided us with a rare opportunity to experience a collective loss, and initiate a shared grieving process. For far too long, in Western culture, grief has been an isolated experience usually impacting one person, family, or community. 

In 2020, however, the same fears and feelings of loneliness, vulnerability, and loss were shared throughout the world. Whether we realized it or not, grief connected us, and in that there was a bigger effort to empathize, connect, and lend a hand. 

For a moment, we were one people facing the same challenge, and reassuring one another as we walked an unknown path together.  Just maybe, 2020 brought us back to experiencing grief the way it was intended —in community, among others, and in the context of connected relationships. 


A Natural Life: Love & Grief Are Connected

As we continued to evolve our practice and support other practitioners in their own healing journeys, we chose to host a special kind of conference this year—one that acts as an experience for all who attend.  Via a path we walk together. 

A Natural Life: Love & Grief Are Connected is where we make a collective date with grief from where we are on our journey. Designed for everyone, regardless of experience and background, this 2.5 day event will bring together a community of helpers and healers from all over the world, to guide us in the art of grieving. 

We will partake in healing practices and other experiential activities together, and hear from speakers whose expertise on the topics of grief and healing will inspire us, help us heal, and increase our impact on our clients, and in the world. 

Whether we recognize it or not, we are always in a season of both love and grief. 

On July 23rd, 24th, and 25th we will simply come together to connect our grief, our love, and expand upon our abilities to support our own healing, and that of our clients or loved ones. 


A collective grief and healing process

Just as we found comfort in the shared experience of a global pandemic, we can also find it in the healing process that follows. 

As we turn our gaze forward, and walk in our grief towards that which looks unfamiliar, our hope is that we recognize those walking beside us. That we acknowledge them on their journey, feel less alone, and support one another in accessing the endless love that exists within. 

We are all new to this path—let’s walk it together.  


Learn more about the Natural Lifemanship way…   


#1  Take some of our courses.  We offer many low cost, single purchase courses and videos for those just wanting to get an idea of what’s out there.  Many of our courses offer CE credits through NBCC and NAADAC.  Many courses are also part of NL Membership or can be purchased by members at steep discounts.  Check out our courses here.


#2 Follow along for FREE!  We offer an array of free content online through webinars, blogs, and videos – you can do any or all of the following to stay connected and up to date on NL happenings!


  1. Visit our website www.naturallifemanship.com to explore blogs and other content.  Seriously, so much can be gleaned from our blogs! 
  2. Sign up for a free introductory membership and gain access to educational videos and a new free video each month. 
  3. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of news, blogs, trainings, etc.
  4. Like and Follow our Facebook page and Instagram – we share videos, pictures, articles, and engage in thoughtful discussions.
  5. The Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Networking Group on Facebook is also a valuable resource.  This group is managed by NL trainers, but is open to ALL.  Such great conversations happen in this group!
  6. Follow our YouTube Channel for free video content! This is a great place to begin understanding how the relationship between horse and person progresses, organically and over time, utilizing NL principles.  Watch this video first and then follow the progress made with Annie and Abilene.

The Twinship of Grief and Love

The Twinship of Grief and Love

By Bettina Shultz-Jobe and Kathleen Choe


 Love, where it ever existed before, doesn’t cease to exist. To speak of love in the past tense is not to know love at all. Love goes on, being always a continuation and an extension of love. Your grief is but the continuation of the love you once experienced, and will always experience. Grief is another name for Love.  (Jennifer Williamson)


Western culture has always had a very uneasy relationship with grief.  Where other cultures and ethnic groups have integrated the inevitability of loss into the fabric of their society, providing structure and support for a grieving process, in the West we are given but weeks to attend to the emotions and details of the loss, such as planning and attending the funeral if a death was involved, and then encouraged to “move on,” whatever that entails, depending on what it is that you have actually lost (a relationship, home, job, person, or pet, for example).  When losing a loved one, this may look like planning and attending a funeral with the minimal bereavement time allotted by your employer. When losing a home or job, this may look like encouraging words from well meaning family and friends that typically end with, “it’s time to move on.”


The COVID 19 pandemic afforded us many opportunities to experience grief. These included routines and activities we were accustomed to, like our gym workout, dining out, popcorn and a good laugh or cry at the movie theater, hugging friends and family, and attending live events like church, school, work, concerts and other outings that we used to take for granted.  Amidst toilet paper, mask and laundry soap shortages, other things were also in short supply: concise, trustworthy information and reliable leadership.  We became fearful of the future, and even each other.  Breathing the air and touching each other became potentially dangerous. Many of us lost loved ones.  Some of us lost livelihoods, a sustainable income, our health or our home. We all lost a sense of safety and security.  


We are now emerging from a time of uncertainty and upheaval in different ways depending upon our particular experience of the pandemic, and need to develop fresh pathways to engage in the necessary grief process of adjusting to “a new normal.”


According to Stephen Jenkinson, Creator and Principle Instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, (and keynote speaker at our conference this year!!)  grief is “a way of loving that which has slipped from view, and love is a way of grieving that which has not yet done so.” He believes that grief is not a feeling, but a state of being that holds true throughout our lifetime, and that we must become “practitioners of grief” in order to truly participate in the experience of deeply loving another. 


Grief acknowledges the impermanence of love, a recognition of its temporariness:  the baby we are rocking and holding today becomes the adolescent who rebuffs a hug, a beloved canine companion on our daily walks becomes crippled with arthritis and lies on his bed watching us lace up our shoes to go without him, a long awaited trip ends in a series of photographs that barely do it justice, a loved one’s spirit nestles in our heart rather than on the couch as a physical body next to us at the end of the day. 


Grief does not necessarily need to be a traumatic experience, but becomes so when experienced in isolation, without understanding and support in the context of connected relationships.  


Grief becomes embodied as trauma when we walk its path alone.  


Jenkins asserts that if your love includes another being, grief is part of love.  They are twins that reveal each other, two sides of the same precious coin. One does not and cannot exist without the other.  Just as we need other beings to experience love, we also need other beings to help us navigate grief.  He concludes:  “You don’t get invited to many parties if you become a practitioner of grief, but your understanding of love is renovated for all time.”


In the upcoming virtual Natural Lifemanship Conference,  A Natural Life:  Love and Grief are Connected, a community of helpers and healers from all over the world will provide us with many rich opportunities to become better practitioners of the inevitable intertwined experiences of love and grief that accompany us on our life’s journey.


Those who participate in this conference will embark on a  journey that we have carefully and artfully designed.  Each presentation will prepare you for the next as the conference culminates in a very special community Rite of Passage to honor change with ceremonialist Katie Asmus.  It is our intention to create a sacred space for you to navigate the challenging road of grief while experiencing the vast love that is, indeed, grief’s twin.


Our upcoming conference was purposefully designed to give you the education and the experience needed as you travel the path upon which you hope to accompany your clients.


Grief, love, and life is a journey to be walked in the company of others. 


Please join us.

Register Now