At the beginning of the most recent cohort of our Keyaki men’s group, my co-leader Skip had the brilliant idea to ask each man what ingredient he was bringing to our stone soup (excuse the obscure cultural reference - just look up the story of stone soup if you don’t know it). The idea was that each of us bring something unique to contribute, and that each of those ingredients we add will make what we are creating together more valuable and more delicious.
What the men came up with was wonderfully fitting for each of them, and surprisingly vulnerable, considering it was just the beginning of our work together.
My ingredient was grief.
It is impossible to say if I’ve had more loss than the average person in my life, but it sure feels like I have had a lot. I was lucky enough to not have lost anyone into my early 20s, and then things went the opposite direction to where at this point, what was once a large and vibrant extended family has dwindled down to an amount I could just about count on two hands, not to mention friends and our first family dog just over a year ago.
And while I was on my break during August this year (an experiment of taking a full month off for the first time since I started my coaching practice), on the way home from running a local race with my son, feeling the high of physical exertion and accomplishment combined with the joy of summer vacation, I found out that death had visited again.
This time I lost a close friend and brother to a heart attack.
Every time death visits it feels uniquely tragic and painful.
This was not just any friend (and no friend is just any friend), but one of those unique relationships borne of the pandemic, someone who I would call the best friend that I never met in person.
He was a man, who from the first time we started to interact online, a time when I felt desperately lost in my own journey and career, showed me that even someone like me who feels like a misfit in a world that isn’t made for him has an important and meaningful path to take.
A man who shared his own lostness with such openness and vulnerability that there was no question we were brothers connected across the ether who had finally found each other.
A man who found his new path as I found mine, and who, after every conversation we had, left me feeling powerful with creative life force.
A man who told me he loved me every time we talked.
A man I cannot name here because if feels like if I do I will break a sacred bond with him that I cannot bear right now.
In my grief, I raged at the injustice of a life gone too soon and what feels like the relentless presence of death in my life. I screamed at loss of the plans we had to be together, work together, have huge impact in the world together. My heart ached and still aches at the fact that I’ll never even know what it was like to just get a hug from him.
With sudden and unexpected loss like this, there is also a very familiar and desperate search for meaning. Where I have landed on that now is that there is no meaning at all, however, that grief is a way to show the cracks in the foundation of our lives. But it’s more urgent than that, the foundation is sand and it’s all slipping away.
My grief is my ingredient and my gift.
It is my connection to the soul of the world.
It is my opening to connect to others and welcome them in sharing their loss, and their love.
Grief is an invitation to all of us.
An invitation to walk through the world with an open heart and feel ALL of it. All of it.
My experience is not that we heal from our grief, or that we need to. Rather, it is a series of waves that start like unsurmountable tsunami and over time become smaller, eventually ripples that don’t break, but send a sensation across the heart, reminding us that we are alive and that we are love.
In your generosity and humanity, you may be called to reach out and see how I am doing, and I love you for that. Trust me when I say I am very supported, and my invitation and request is to turn any energy you would use for that back towards yourself. Feel into your own life where grief may be hidden, wanting attention, holding its own gifts for you.
Knowing that the foundational sands of your life are slipping away, where are you holding back?
What art, expression of your soul, work that can created only by you and that we are all waiting for have you not started yet?
Don’t wait one more day.