An interactive workshop was held on the 4th of July 2015 at the beautiful Customs House Library in Circular Quay. It was facilitated by Sarah Wayland and was to discuss the following:
"From the inside looking out...understanding change after loss"
The premise of the workshop was that families often share that following the loss of a child or sibling their worldview shifts, that the colours they observed before their loss become dulled or seem different than before.
Sarah is a an accredited social worker, counsellor, academic researcher, speaker and writer and her insight and ability to lead and faciltate the discussion provided benefits to our members in their respective journeys.
Please see an account of the afternoon from one of our members:
On Saturday 4th of July a group of eighteen members of TCF NSW met in a workshop under the guidance of Sarah Wayland to discuss "From the Inside out - how the world shifts".
In her introduction Sarah asked us to recognise "the Power of coming together" and mentioned the Founder of Compassionate Friends, The Reverend Canon Simon Stephens' remarks in his recent visit to Australia, 'They found somebody else who was going through the same thing, someone who could hold their hand, and listen to their story time and time again.' Rev. Stephens 2015
We split into small groups to use the workshop as "a chance for us to sit inside ourselves for two hours and explore what had changed: what was more challenging, what remained the same and what new discoveries we have made about ourselves or the people around us". The challenge that we could not prevent the loss, that our children will not experience their full lives, in some cases there was bitterness and lack of support yet some relationships had strengthened, there was a changed outlook on what was important, things we value and increased self awareness.
This led to a discussion on common attitudes of friends and family and the surprise of who had been most supportive and those who had disappointed us. The "before friends" and the "after friends".
We acknowledged that we are all totally changed by our loss and that we will all travel at our own pace through our grief. Those present who were further along their journey shared the ways they had found to deal with the anger, pain and vulnerability. There was recognition of how we all respond differently to the life changing trauma of losing a child, grandchild or sibling, but there are many common threads in our experiences that we can share and give and receive support living with this life changing trauma.
Sarah mentioned that "In Psychology there has been a shift away from the idea that successful grieving requires letting go...there is a potentially healthy role for maintaining continuing bonds with the deceased...there exists the possibility of the deceased being both present and absent" and this resonated with all those present.
With regard to professional help Sarah pointed out that "there is now a recognition that 'Intervention soon after bereavement may interfere with the natural grieving process' (Strobe & Schut, 2005 P140)".
Sarah's great gift is that she poses the questions she would like us to consider in a manner that nudges us all into expressing our feelings and how we have coped or leads us along new paths that are worth exploring together with people who really do understand what we are talking about without using any psycho-speak sacred cows (two I would like to eliminate from use are 'closure' and 'nurture yourself')
On a personal note I once again question why I attend TCF events, fourteen years after the death of our daughter and as always I think back to the first few years after her death and The Compassionate Friends who listened and listened and listened. Our backgrounds and the circumstances of loss were totally different but the impact of parental bereavement had so many similar threads, the changes we felt in ourselves, the anger, the devastating sadness and all the hard work to rebuild our lives without our children, there was an incalculable support in sharing and having a safe space to talk.
If sharing my own journey in a Circle of Warmth one cold afternoon in Sydney can play any part in supporting another bereaved parent then it is worth the increased sadness I feel confronted by the reality of the unfulfilled dreams I had for my daughter and the space she has left in my life.