WRITTEN BY Bettina Shultz-Jobe, LPC, NBCC
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.
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