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The Art of Grieving Well

13 Sep

 I just came across an excellent article by Rabbi David Greenspoon on how he uses guided imagery as part of the traditional Jewish Yizkor service (the section of liturgy that commemorates dead family members and expresses thanks for their having been in our lives). For many, this is the most poignant, powerful - and sometimes dreaded - part of the annual high holidays. 

He writes in Saying Yizkor With Painful Memories Of Deceased in the Baltimore Jewish Times:  

I lead a guided imagery for the Yizkor or memorial service on Yom Kippur at Beth El Congregation. I began this practice more than a dozen years ago, and have observed the resulting consistent impact in congregations of varying sizes and in differing locales. Immersed in this imagery, people encounter their beloved departed with all their senses. 

For many, it is the most powerful experience they have during the Days of Awe. Their holy tears flow during this meditation as they feel the embraces, hear the voices, even breathe in the scents of their beloved family and friends who have left this Earth. [Ed. Note: This guy knows his guided imagery!  Bravissimo for making it multi-sensory, Sir!]

Yet for some, this guided imagery can be painful beyond the normal sense of sorrow of Yizkor. For them, it is too painful to be with their departed. These people know there are times when the act of remembering is not an uplifting experience.

Sometimes, the difficulty is based on something that we might have inadvertently done to someone else, but with catastrophic results nonetheless. This pain is a form of survivor's guilt, based in our perceived sense of remorse at our own conduct. At other times, the difficulty we face in remembrance is rooted in the pain that others inflicted upon us. 

Resisting these memories is certainly understandable. The more I encounter this pain - whatever its source - the more I have to wrestle with it and struggle to make sense of it.

My first instinct is that, oftentimes, the power of this pain can be reduced if we know how to grieve well. In the course of a lifetime, virtually no one can avoid an encounter with death. In general, it is clear that the people who have been willing to engage in good grieving emerge more fully capable of embracing the life ahead of them. Good grieving entails a few different elements: ritual practices based in a spiritual discipline, the commitment to seeking the help and support that one's particular loss demands and the emotional willingness to invest the time it really takes to mourn.

Please click here to read on. It's a longer than usual piece, but definitely worth reading.

And just a reminder: The second annual Imagery International Conference is going to be held on October 22-24, 2010 at the Vallombrosa conference grounds in Menlo Park, California.  The registration deadline for the early bird discount is September 22. 

Also, good news:  psychologist Jim Kepner, PhD, and social worker Carol DeSanto, LISW, are hosting another of their excellent Trauma Pattern Release workshops October 16-17 in Cleveland.  Some of you will remember that I describe their unique synthesis of methods (from Gestalt therapy, Robert Scaer's neurological explanation of PTS, Rosalyn Bruyere-style energy healing, the sequencing of EMDR and other alphabet therapies, and imagistic shamanic work) in my book, Invisible Heroes.  It's complex and sophisticated work and they teach it well. 

The workshop is two full days, and it's called Clearing the Patterns of Trauma & Habit From the Energetic Nervous System: Where's the Reset Button?.  Here is their course description: 

Our understanding of subtle energy in the nervous system has opened new ways to help conditions which set patterns of energy and response in the nervous system. Ingrained habits, accidents, medical procedures, abuse, crisis and other events can set energetic patterns in the nervous system. These can impact health, body sensation, pain and emotional responses. Aftereffects of trauma can include not only psychological concerns, but also health conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue. This workshop will introduce the concepts and tools for clearing these energetic patterns. Students who have taken the workshop previously will learn advanced methods and refinements of the technique.

There's nothing quite like this training (I took it myself, as part of my research for my book).  It's kind of like Mystery-School-Meets-Professional-Clinical-Practice. To check it out further, go to Pathways for Healing.  

OK, that's it for now.  

Take care and be well,