To merely search for a healthy and meaningful way to process sorrow and grief, can feel fucking debilitating. When you walk into your town’s bookstore, there are hundreds of different “Self Help” and “Spiritual Renewal” publications written by hundreds of different authors for hundreds of different circumstances. When you search, “How to Grieve” on Google, 27 million suggestions are generated. When you ask your friends for advice, through tears and fears, you will hear each one saying something different.
The truth is: everyone processes grief differently. There is no miracle or definite right way to heal. Your path along the winding road is as different and unique as mine. Unfortunately, the path is filled with good intended yet absolutely shitty platitudes, empty handed compliments, and so, so much lonely silence… It is not easy, it is not pretty, but unpacking our rucksacks, weighed down by trauma, allows us space to pack in new things. New things like: coping mechanisms, breathing techniques, stillness, joy, and ways to experience our present lives; not separate from all that came before, but along with it.. With it, as metaphorical scars and tattoos dancing across our being. They do not disappear. Instead, they simply no longer bleed when they are touched and that alone, can feel like a goddamn miracle. Don’t get it twisted, I am not saying that asinine age-old adage, “it gets better”... no.. grief doesn't get fucking better… but it does get more and more bearable as we process it more and more thouroghly.
Unfortunately, I can not tell you that your time of healing will be marked with a definite point of ending. The memories, the sadness, the joy, and the agony will always exist within us. However, we can honor ourselves, honor our journey, and honor our grief with a definite starting point… a point which marks the beginning of something new… a point which marks the beginning of healing... a point which stands as memorialization, reminding ourselves in times of deep sorrow that we too are worthy of existence and worthy of connectedness: even if for now, that message is purely aspirational.
The following are four meditations that were specifically written for those actively experiencing raw grief and arid loneliness. These meditations are nonreligious. They are not designed to provide answers or goals; instead, their aim is to provide a starting point. A space and place to honor the feelings and experiences which have brought each listener to this moment… a place to begin… a place to be… a place to exist. Much of their power comes from reading them in community, be it with one close friend or a hundred strangers. They raise up four central topics: Grief, Courage, Memories, and Peace.
Originally, this meditation was a part of a larger Blue Christmas Service at The Bistro in Bloomington, IL (the local LGBTQIA2S+ bar). It was a safe space for those in attendance to process their feelings along side folks whom they trusted and had rapport. In the beginning, we lowered the lights and invited individuals to light small votive candles which lined the bar. This signified the emotions and feelings that emboldened each person to walk through the doors that night. A guest musician played atmospheric music under this entire meditation. At the beginning of each section, a new pillar candle was lit. This stood as the tangible manifestation of that which we were welcoming and honoring in the space together as one community.
The meditations are as follows:
On this dim night, we move into a time of stillness and meditation. Out of isolation, out of preconceived notions of unworthiness, and out of a silent meandering journey of making sense of ourselves and our circumstances, we gather to grieve. The extent of the grief and the pain that we feel is indescribable to one another. The flame of pain flairs and dims. At different times and in different places and with different people. Our grief, it may change. Sometimes, it may feel like a candle in the room: we are conscious of it, we smell the burning wick, but we are unworried and unbothered by its flame. Other times it can feel like a wildfire: we surrounded on all sides, isolated with no end in sight, the walls closing in, our whole being in pain…
So as we light this Candle of Grief, may it grant honor to all of these feelings, both big and small, whatever they may be. We light this candle to externalize our experience. We light this candle to acknowledge the presence of sorrow. We light this candle to say we are not alone in our fear or our grief. We light this candle with and in our community. We light it with and for one another.
May we be reminded that there is not a single thing we did to deserve these deep feelings of depression, anxiety, fear of abandonment, loneliness and anything else. May we be reminded that there is no one we are meant to be besides ourself. May we be reminded that in this place, if not for one service, for one night, we can let the walls which surround us drop, baring our grief for what it is. Being ourselves for who we are.
May we begin... begin the long and winding path of healing.
Courage is present each and every day of our life. Every morning we have the courage to awaken. We have the courage to seek community. We have the courage to walk the long and bumpy path towards healing. Sometimes all the courage we have is expended when we look at ourselves in the mirror and say, I see you. The beauty of courage is that, like one candle lighting the next, it is a flame that can be passed from neighbor to neighbor. Friend to friend. Stranger to stranger.
So as we light this candle of Courage, may it stand as a flickering testament to our inner strength when we feel as if we have not a single drop of courage left in our well. We light this candle to light others. We light this candle for all the times we weren’t able to light our own. We light this candle because we made it to this day and that alone is Good.
May we be reminded tonight of our inner strength which pulses through our veins with every beat of our heart. Though our inner self may say we are weak, though our subconscious may say we are worthless, though the voices from our past may say we have nothing to give… we do. We have courage. We are courageous. We are strong. We are.
Everyday of our existence can be traced like a path in the woods. We can see where we are today, we can see the trajectory of where we are going tomorrow, and when we take a moment to pause, to reflect, to meditate… to remember... We can turn around, gaze back across time to see all the places and spaces, experiences and emotions that have made us who we are today. Our path tomorrow can change, it will eb and flow, some days will be easier than others, some days will be like traversing a thicket of thorns. When we look back to the past, we can begin to understand ourselves.
So as we light this candle of Memories, may we be reminded of the string of time stretching back through our lives which formed us like clay in the hands of an artist. We light this candle so that we may take a moment to honor the past: the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. We light this candle so that we may begin to unpack the deep why’s and painful how’s which cry and scream in our heads.
May we be reminded that two things can be true at the same time: 1) our past can be shitty, filled with pain, and dulled by depression and 2) our tomorrow can have hope, because we know that we deserve better. That we did not deserve the suffering. May we be reminded by our memories of the relationships and love and hope and joy that has been poured into us by family or by strangers, by pets and by art.
Inner Peace is not a goal that can be achieved in the far off future of life. Inner Peace is not something that will solve all of the troubles of our current realities. Inner Peace does not now, has never before, and unfortunately, it will never in the future exist in isolation, separate from chaos and unknown. Peace is messy. It is smudged. It is colored outside the lines. Inner peace comes in countless forms. It arrives when we least expect it and sometimes when we feel the least worthy of it… and yet, when we are greeted with a moment of peace and security, it is good. We deserve a moment to set down the baggage of sorrow. We deserve the air that allows us take a full breath once again. We deserve the peace of stillness and quiet.
So as we light this final candle of Peace, may we be reminded, not to shy away from the light when it appears in the bleakness. We light this candle because we are harsh to ourselves. We light this candle because the warm glow stands as a physical reminder that our futures shift with the blowing of the wind like the dancing flame on the wick. We light this candle to honor the stillness amidst the chaos and to honor the chaos amidst the stillness.
May we, here and now, be reminded that peace arrives, not in dazzling splendor, but in the basic everyday objects and relations we hold. Peace arrives in a warm mug of tea. Peace arrives in the sudden cackling laughter of a friend. Peace arrives in the quiet nudge of our pets. Peace arrives, when we least expect it. May we be reminded to slow, to afford ourselves space to heal, to begin the inner work unpacking trauma and pain, and beginning the journey towards healing.
A Note from Ms. Penny:
I want to take a moment and say that I am not a therapist or counselor, I am simply a Drag Queen, a Queer Person, and a newly hired Pastor who has experienced grief and isolation in life. I walk this earth with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety. I walk this earth learning new ways to process and heal my past. The knowledge and wisdom which I am sharing in this post is simply from experience.
I want to invite you to reach out to those around you. I know that your brain might be telling you that reaching out is useless or that you are unworthy of help... but that voice in your head is a liar. You deserve community. At the very least, you deserve someone listen and say, "I see you. You are Worthy. You did not deserve this".
At one point, therapy saved my life. In the day to day, it helps me break cycles of trauma and pain. It can do the same for you. If finances are an issue, there are many therapists who offer sliding scales. Visit www.psychologytoday.com to find someone who is a right fit for you.
The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (online chat available)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
The GLBT National Youth Talkline (youth serving youth through age 25): (800) 246-7743
Both provide telephone, online private one-to-one chat and email peer-support, as well as factual information and local resources for cities and towns across the United States.
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
Trans Lifeline is a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.
U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233 (English and Spanish) (800) 787-3224 (TTY)
They also have an online chat feature available. Operating around the clock, seven days a week, confidential and free of cost, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety and live lives free of abuse. Highly trained, experienced advocates offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in over 170 languages.
Pride Institute: (800) 547-7433 24/7
Chemical dependency/mental health referral and information hotline for the LGBTQ community.
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)
The nation's largest organization fighting sexual violence, RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.