Wendy Black Stern
Founder and Executive Director
Grief Support Network
Our grief does have the wisdom to move through us and it is a profound experience to have and to witness in each other. I just returned from leading GSN’s Moving Through Grief Retreat at SunMountain Center with my dear friend and colleague, Robyn Hubbard. The experience was profoundly inspiring and left me with a sense of gratitude for the great wisdom and intelligence that lives within our bodies.
Throughout the weekend, we created a learning community with 12 beautiful women who courageously showed up in their vulnerability and authenticity to do big work. Our weekend was guided by a powerful framework for moving grief called the Four Pathways, which delivered a tremendous richness and depth as we journeyed in intentional space and time within our sacred container.
I was deeply touched by each of the participants and reminded of the early days after losing Noah and the intensity and depth of pain that lived in my body. As I was healing, my yoga practice became my sanctuary. Each time I arrived on my mat, I learned to look within my body for the answers to my suffering and I found that yoga gave me a way to stay grounded and connected to myself in order to release some of the pain that I felt inside. In the beginning, it was really about survival. I would turn to my mat in search of an anchor to keep me tethered to myself when so much of my being wanted to leave this physical plane and follow Noah. However, as the years have passed, my practice has opened the doorway of my heart for me to love, live and come to understand the true meaning of the word Gratitude.
We will all experience grief, tragedy or trauma at some point in our lives. We can all touch these vulnerable spaces of loss within ourselves and through yoga, we actively look to our bodies to learn about ourselves and to grow. This is why yoga can feel so good! Yoga provides us with an individual container, which often brings a sense of safety, to feel our grief and go deeper into ourselves. AND at the same time, yoga gives us a collective container to experience each other through energy, breath and sharing. When you combine this work with an incredible group of people and the mindful, soulful tools that the Four Pathways offer, nothing short of magic occurs. Yoga allows us to feel more. It keeps us connected, which is what we are all ultimately seeking, right? – But, as a culture, we are not really equipped to talk about loss or how to deal with grief especially when it happens to us. I certainly was not. Instead, most of us disconnect and isolate ourselves because those around us are uncomfortable with big emotions. But, what if we could grieve together in community, rather than having to do it alone? What if we could learn to trust in our bodies and experience the wisdom within? This is the paradigm of grieving that GSN has created. This is the community we are holding. As a culture, we cultivate greater gratitude and joy in our lives by learning how to stay connected in our bodies and opening our hearts to feeling more instead of less.
My friend and co-facilitator Robyn Hubbard shares her reflection on the power of the four pathways: resource, release, rebirth and renewal.
“I have come to trust that the nature of grief is to move through us. It has a destructive quality that leaves us different than who we were before a life-changing event. But I have also come to trust that within destruction comes the promise of a rebirth of something new – often unimaginable to the mind and life as we have known it. The natural tendency for gripping, shutting down, or armoring ourselves to protect from the pain of shattering is normal and appropriate when the pain feels too intense to bear. As resources and support slowly come back online after an initial shock, some gentle movement can help encourage the moving nature of grief’s course through us. Again, as resources strengthen, more qualities and range of movement can be accessed to explore how our bodies can give us feedback of what we need and what resources are available to us (Resource), what emotions need to be expressed to be true to our experience (Release), what is ready to be shaken loose to create room for a new sensation to be experienced (Rebirth), and ways that our renewed experience can in turn be in support and service to ourselves and others (Renewal). This is the spiraling map of Soulful Grieving.”
It was such a great privilege to work with Robyn and co-create this mindful, soulful weekend of moving grief through the body in the sacredness of community. Sitting with you, journeying with you, and experiencing transformation with you brings the vision strikingly forward. We are climbing a precipice which must be climbed and won – to break the stigma around grief in our culture not only for our small community here in Colorado but for people everywhere and generations to come. To all of you, this is my heartfelt thank you for being a part of my life as well as a part of the GSN community.