Teaching: Way of Grief
From a young age we see around us that grief is mostly an affliction, a misery that intrudes into the life we deserve, a rupture of the natural order of things, a trauma that we need coping and management and five stages and twelve steps to get over.
Here’s the revolution: What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Grief and the love of life are twins, natural human skills that can be learned first by being on the receiving end and feeling worthy of them, later by practicing them when you run short of understanding. In a time like ours, grieving is a subversive act.
Homecoming: A master class in living and dying
The relentless pursuit of self reliance and self improvement is rooted in our lost connection to common stories, homeland and ancestors that bind and unite us. The times now demand that we recognize the world’s suffering in our own.
This workshop teaches the skills of grief, broken heartedness and spiritual activism, all harnessed to the long overdue project of building a world-feeding inner life whose joy is rooted in knowing well its end.
Making a Place Among Us
Being born is enormous work, flavoured with some grief at coming to us. A baby needs and deserves a welcome of great elegance and substance. A workshop on making a home for the sorrowing little stranger in your midst.
Being Blessed by Blessing
An old ceremony of welcome, praise, vow and taking on the grief debt for this new life.
Where Did Grandpa Go?
At the death bed, at the funeral home, at the graveside: this is where children learn either to know dying or to fear it. It is also the beginning of learning about grief. A workshop on including children in the death of the people around them.
Will You Still Be My Parents?
Inside the great grief of a child dying is the dying child’s great curiosity: Where am I going? Who will I be? They deserve real answers from the adults around them. A workshop on living with children who are dying.
What’s Wrong: Learning a language for grief
Our illiteracy around grief is learned in adolescence. Grief is a skill, much more than a feeling, and it has to be taught and learned. Adolescence gives all of us plenty of opportunity for both. A workshop for learning the words for grieving.
No One Gets Out of Here Alive: Young people and death
In traditional cultures and times young people were initiated into their humanness through deliberate ceremonial instruction in the necessity, justice, purpose and merit of their own death – a prerequisite for living deeply and well – by highly skilled elders who knew death well. In our time, rife as it is with death phobia and grief illiteracy, kids are utterly on their own where death is concerned. They come to it by dare, by drug, by an unformed fascination that disarms or terrifies parents and teachers. This radical and private curiosity about death should be an occasion for deep teaching about life instead of psychiatric referrals. It requires grief teachers, a birthright of all young people, not grief counsellors.
This workshop gives guidance on wondering about death. It delivers a powerful mix of provocation, affirmation and obligation in a rambunctious, thoughtful meditation on this, the great mystery of human life. Using scenes from Griefwalker, the feature NFB documentary film about my work and ideas, the workshop frames grief as a skill and fascination with death as vital in coming to a deep love of being alive.
This programme is suitable to high school age students, and can be formatted for inclusion in sociology, health, psychology or current events curriculae.
Grief and the Love of Life
Grief is a way of loving the world anyway; love, a way of grieving what has not yet passed away. Both are skills of the heart, and both have to be learned. A workshop on the skills of grown up love.
Perhaps a Stranger to Himself: The particular grief of men
We’ve lived the slander of most things masculine for forty years, and it hasn’t helped. The world needs a manhood that knows itself well, that puts its shoulder to the wheel of the world and works for life to live. A workshop for anyone planning to live with or as a man.
How It All Could Be: The Study Group
This is a day for deep reflection on living and dying, for the practice of grief and the love of being alive, for learning a language that is faithful to dying and to caring for a loved unto their death and beyond. It is based on Stephen Jenkinson’s How It All Could Be: A workbook for dying people and for those who love them. Registration for this workshop includes a signed copy of the book.
Grief, Walking: The soul of a well lived life
Though now addicted to security, comfort and managing uncertainty, our culture could learn to honour, teach and live grief as a skill, as vital to our personal, community and spiritual life as the skill of loving. How we die and how we care for those who are dying among us either makes communities or breaks them.
This workshop teaches the dying time as a place to learn our humanity, and to learn the noble, courageous skills of village making for those we will not live to see.
The Tangled Garden of Wisdom and Grief
A good death is everyone’s right, but the idea makes no sense in a culture that doesn’t believe in dying at all: this is the dilemma for palliative patients and their families, and for those working in a health care system where dying is the end, not the fulfillment, of health.
The time is upon us, after several decades of pain and symptom management, to imagine anew what dying asks of us all, and what a dying person deserves from us. This workshop is a deep meditation on how dying can be learned, and on what the care of dying people should have at its root.
Illiterate Grief: The long dark shadow of being from nowhere
Most dying people’s fear of what will become of them is bound up with their fear of what we will do with them after they die. They fear most our ability to live, eventually, as if they’d never been. This is the exponential consequence of living without ancestors, that we may have lost the ability to become one.
The willingness to remember great sorrow, unsuspected loss, blank pages in the story of who we are, this is grief in action. This workshop teaches the skills of personal grief and ancestral grief, in particular their redemptive power in learning and claiming ancestry for personal story. With grief learned we have ancestors to die unto.
The Greying Heart: The particular grief of age
Look carefully and with respect and you see that most old people’s eyes are filled with what has gone. The life-loving grief of age is hard on the old, but it is the soil where everyone else’s life can be planted and bear fruit. A workshop for understanding what old grief could mean to the rest of us.