By: Heather Giron Fritts, MNPL, Founder of The CHAN Project
If we were to look up grief in the dictionary, we'd find a description something like "deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death." But I can tell you personally that grief comes in the package of loss from a loved one who has moved beyond this earth. However, it comes in many other forms as well, the loss of a job, of a friendship. What about when a young woman becomes a wife and then a mother shortly thereafter and she has lost that singular female energy she once held? Grieving is found in so many forms and in so many for so many reasons, and yet - no two people will experience grief in the same way twice.
When my family lost my son, each one of us, his father, sister, my mother with dementia, his cousins, his fiancé, and on and on and on, we all experienced that loss so individually. And with every loss, each of us always will experience our grief individually. Those that have lost jobs during Covid, or worse lost their businesses, and what about those that lost their loved ones or their homes, is there a measure for which of these are the hardest to experience, which is the least? There is not, because for each human being, the loss is measured individually. Grief is experienced individually and in a manner that runs in line with that individual's previous coping skills, their experiences in life, their tribe - their ropes.
I learned of a story back years ago in my undergrad program at Western Washington University, where I teach today in the Human Service Program. The story was of the ropes that farmers tied, at the first sign of blizzards, from the back porches of their ranch to their barns. Farmers all knew too well of stories where neighbors had wandered off and been frozen to death in the many white outs, having lost sight of home while still in their own back yards.
These ropes are their saving grace. It not only saved human lives, but these ropes also save their livestock, allowing farmers to get to the barn to care for their four-legged critters, and then back home safely to the warmth and safety of the home to do it all again the next day. However, I remember the lesson in the story is so much more than the safety of the farmers returning to their homes. We dissected the meaning of the ropes in another way. I remember my professor asking us to think about the ropes and all the intertwining threads that make up a thick enough rope to withstand the cold and freeze of a mid-west blizzard. These thick ropes were made of sturdy strands of thread, multiple threads, all twisted sharply together to make up one thick rope that fulfilled the job of creating the safety survival rope. We explored that rope and what it meant to us in our own lives. Who our threads were, who our ropes were?
In a time of grief, of lower spirits, of depression, isolation, who are your strands? Who holds you up and keeps you safe? Do you have people that make up that rope? Each thread of that safety rope represents an individual person in your life, someone that is a member of your tribe, a person in your life that you mean the world to, that will walk through fire for you and be there through thick and thin. They are the person that will help you through your grief. They are the one that will hold you when you cry, that will tuck you into bed and be there in the morning when you wake. They are the friend that will spoon feed you when you've not eaten in days or hold your hair when you're throwing it all back up. They are the one who will drop everything and crank up their big ol' car and get there fast, as Tracy Lawrence sings in You Find Out Who Your Friends Are, because they are your ropes.
There are the people that understand grief while others who want to run from it. We all have those friends who hush us when grief enters the room. They don't talk about it because it brings tears to the room. While others are there to hold you and let you cry as loud as you want, and they are crying right alongside you. Some will try to fix it, feed it, cure it. We have all sizes and shapes of folks that will help with our grief, and there is space for each of them, those are the threads that make up our ropes. At the CHAN Project, we are a thread in your rope, possibly two or three threads. We are about tying a rope from your back door out to the barn so that you can find your way home again. We'll help you catch sight of your soul and survive that blizzard while letting hope float up again. Once you find your spirit and grasp your soul deep inside eventually, the storm will part for the sun to find its way back to your smile.
All CHAN Project programs are based on compassion, healing, awareness, and nurturing in mind and are non-faith based and peer-led. Therefore, we accept individuals from all faiths, backgrounds, cultures, and denominations. We base our programs around diversity and inclusivity. We believe that connection, compassion, and empathy are the roots of understanding and healing and that together we can heal ourselves and others. Our grief circles are created to support self and others, and while providing a safe place for healing within the circle itself, we are also hopeful that these circles will grow 'grief tribes' naturally where our participants form relationships that grow to support one and other when they are beyond CHAN Program doors as well. We believe that it is through building a community that we will heal our community. Through this work, we aim to nurture the spirit of all who enter our doors and blossom the souls of all we connect with. We hope that with whom we come in contact will depart in a place better than they came. And yet, that they may return anytime they feel a need.