I’m pulling together materials to help me run a writing workshop for bereavement support. I’ve been browsing local bookstores and surfing the net for resources.
I found a wonderful little book, 101 WAYS YOU CAN HELP: How to Offer Comfort and Support to Those Who Are Grieving by Liz Aleshire.
A quick flip through the book revealed succinct, concrete ways to help someone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one.
I like how the book is organized, by whether the person who needs your support is a family member, a friend, a co-worker, etc.
I like that the suggestions work. That same day, I called a friend who’d just lost someone. Normally, I’d invite the person over for a meal. Liz’s book suggested taking a meal to them. Sure enough, the “dinner here” and “dinner out” invitations were refused. But the “How about we come to your house with dinner?” invitation was received with surprise and gratitude.
I like that some of the suggestions are counter-intuitive. For example, she says sometimes you gotta be a little pushy. This echoes something I learned in my bereavement training. For example, we are urged to call people even if they don’t answer the phone. The grieving person may not feel like talking. But they appreciate knowing that you’ve called, even in only to leave a message. So call them regularly, even if it feels like you’re talking into space. You’re not.
But what I like best about the book is the back story.
Liz Aleshire lost her 16-year-old son to bone cancer. So she knows grief personally. For thirteen years, she carried the devastation of his loss.
And Liz died before her book was finished–literally of a broken heart. Health issues complicated a series of heart attacks that finally ended her life.
If that weren’t poignant enough, Liz’s book was finished after her death–by her friends. The members of her small writing group came together to care and support Liz through her trials. And they helped her finish the book. Careful to retain Liz’s distinctive “voice”, they wrote and edited from Liz’s outline and drafts, bringing the book to publication.
All of this is astonishing. But the final kicker is…
I know one of the authors.
Paula Chaffee Scardamalia and I met when she interviewed me for an article in the May 2000 issue of The Crafts Report magazine. We were both taking our craft as far as we could, doing the show circuit, acquiring galleries to carry our work, etc. Everything was bright and shiny, all opportunities full with the promise of success.
I really enjoyed talking with her; she’s a fellow fiber artist, warm, insightful and a great writer. We emailed back and forth for awhile, but then we lost touch.
And then big things happened in the world, things that changed us deeply. Our ideas about “success” made a paradigm shift. Many of us now look in other places beyond fame and fortune for what the work of our hands can accomplish, in the world and in our hearts.
To see her name in this book was a wonderful example of synchronicity. I’ve learned that, just as I’ve added writing and hospice to my life, she does less weaving (mostly custom orders now) and more writing and life coaching.
She’s pleased that I find Liz’s book so appealing. It’s a reminder that the good we do lives after us. She hopes the book will find its way into the hands of more people.
Because grief eventually touches us all. Where there is love, or the hope of love, or the failure of love, there is grief. Only in indifference are we spared. And indifference is a high price to pay, to be spared the pain of grief.
And I marvel, once again, at how the threads of our lives touch, entwine, pass on…and touch again.