I spent today with an amazing group of participants and volunteers at a day long Family Grief Retreat. As I left the air was calm enough for a beautiful hot air balloon. It seemed so big and drew my attention so sharply. In the photo it seems so small, but I assure you it was big. Beautiful. And a welcome ending to a day full of connection and grace.

I had the honour of bringing a message of hope during the memorial service honouring those who have died and their impact on our lives. These are the words I shared:

We have had such a day together! There has been time to give focus and attention to our feelings, time to do some things for our self care, time to build relationships. There have been tears and moments of laughter. Wonderful moments of being sprayed with the hose from the fire truck. Broken pottery that with the help of many hands was pieced together, never the same, but brutal and beautiful and meaningful nonetheless. There has been nourishment for our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our spirits.

Take a moment to look around you.

Breathe deeply. Let the experiences of the day seep deeply into your being. We honour and acknowledge the people, who have shared their hearts and their stories today.

It is good to be reminded physically that we are not alone.

There are, at least, these hundred people with whom we have shared a special experience of non-judgement, encouragement and hope.

In this community today we have honoured the stories of those we love who have died and we have explored how they inhabit our lives and nothing can take that away.

As we keep on learning to live in our new selves, learning to sort out what it’s like to have a relationship with someone we love who is no longer physically with us, as we keep on doing the work of acknowledging our person, our people, our grief, and asking for help, we are doing the work of mourning.

And I think that there is no way out of this wilderness except through.

Alan Wolfelt sometimes uses the imagery of wilderness for our grief. Vast. Inhospitable. Mountainous. Uncertain. Though the path isn’t straight forward, or orderly, there is a pathway. And there are touch stones along the way that help us to move through the wildness, the wilderness of grief, to heal, to feel our feelings and respond, to keep on looking for hope or finding people who can help us find hope on days we struggle.

As you go out from this sacred space where we have remembered, where we have had the gift of time and people with whom to share this safe space, we will be given a package of stones as a keepsake.

When you take those stones home and sit with them, the experience of getting still and holding them in your hands may speak to you.

You may not take them out of their bag. Ever.

You might choose to take them out.

Because your experience of grief is your very own, you may find nuance and depth that we cannot even touch in our brief time here today.

You may notice the weight of these rocks. Perhaps the ways they are the same and the ways they are different.

I wonder if they can represent our time in the wilderness and the ways it might change us.

I wonder if these stones might speak to us of the hope that we will move from carrying this weighty stone of grief that is sharp, to still carrying a stone of grief that either gets less heavy with time, or that we get stronger to carry.

I wonder if we might ponder how jagged rocks, tumbled together, rub the sharp edges off one another. They bring….

I wonder if we might hear the call of hope, that over time, we might find healing.

May your experiences here today be part of rubbing off the sharpness of grief. May you be encouraged in the work and play of mourning.  And may your experiences become smooth, touch stones that mark the path through the wilderness toward healing.

So, you might want to go out and find at least two stones. One sharp and rough and one smooth. And listen to what those stones might have to tell you. 

Feel free to send me a note to let me know!