Coming to a grief group can sometimes make someone feel like a stranger in a strange land. “I don’t belong here. I’m different from everyone. They’re all older/younger. I don’t believe what they believe about death. They’re a different religion than me.”
Group is about diversity of all kinds. It can be simultaneously embracing the differences and the similarities of everyone’s culture, race, age, gender, religion, belief systems and spirituality. The truth is that we’re in this world together. We all juggle various identities while struggling through life and grief to find ourselves.
Sharing is not easy. Some people are shy or private, perhaps feeling unsure that what they have to say will be welcomed, might be judged or may even upset someone. Yet underneath that shyness or private protectiveness is a grieving individual, someone who needs to be welcomed and encouraged to ease away those fears and understand that this sacred circle is a safe place. When there is safety with compassion, without judgment, there is room to understand differences. Understanding is the other side of fear.
Sharing spiritual beliefs is one way of welcoming diversity and building bridges of connections. The stories that you share and listen to bring warmth, compassion, empathy and understanding — and they help you realize that maybe you are not alone, just different. In accepting our differences, we’re no longer alone.
The more we can sit with someone in the groups, no matter where they come from, or what their beliefs are, the more opportunity we have to build bridges to common ground. The commonality of grief exists even though your specific journey is uniquely yours.
Humanity transcends all of the differences that keep us apart. In Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s 2017 book about grief and courage, Option B, Sandberg tells a wrenching and wholehearted story about “collective pain.”
“An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.”
What brings us together is grief, yet what holds us together varies. As you read this, think about what ways your experience influences your willingness to join with others… over food, listening to music, hearing stories, sharing your story, crying, laughing. It’s about humanity.
Human beings only learn and evolve through relationship. The only way we can see ourselves objectively is through the reflection of others. We can go off and sit in a cave and meditate for years, but we only really find out what happened in that cave when we come out and get involved with other people. So, we need each other if we want to evolve. — Andrew Cohen, Author/Spiritual Teacher