Two years ago I was in the throes of planning a Day of Lament for myself and fellow front line workers; an attempt to help us process (at least some of) the cumulative grief that comes from loving people who have hard lives, and then losing too many in too short a time.
My dear friend Ruthi and I co-created this event, which was held on February 29th, 2020, just two weeks before life changed so suddenly and drastically because of COVID-19.
I am forever grateful that we, as front line workers, were able to gather that day. We remembered friends, shared stories, made art, went for walks, listened to music, read poetry, did yoga, received hand massages, ate dinner around a long table… We spent time being together, something we knew was precious but didn’t realize would be taken away mere days later.
Ruthi compiled a huge selection of poems, and a list of books and articles for us to take home and dig into on our own. One of the resources was an exercise by Vikki Reynolds, an incredible consultant, facilitator and supervisor in team development, resisting burnout, trauma and witnessing resistance to violence and oppression. This resource is called Holding on with Letting Go, and is freely available here.
I didn’t have a chance to really look at this resources until the Day of Lament, and another very close friend, had passed. Less than a week after the Day of Lament, Sanctuary’s beloved Chris Vanhartskamp died suddenly. As I sat reeling from from this fresh grief, I pulled out the half-sheet of paper from a leftover Day of Lament care package, on which Ruthi had printed a nugget of Vikki Reynolds’ wisdom.
In Holding on with Letting Go, Vikki resists the notion of “getting over” or “moving on” from situations that “lack social justice and are intolerable.” Instead, she encourages the re-membering of a person who has died, calling to mind the ways in which your relationship was helpful to them, helpful to you, and will influence your life moving forward.
I found these questions to be hugely helpful and of great comfort in my grief for Chris, and for other friends who have passed since then. In the last couple of weeks, I have again turned to this resource as The Dale grieves the death of Ronnie Gallant. I have been thinking, in particular, about the things I learned from Ronnie, and how I want to incorporate them into my life: regular, frank expressions of love for friends, straightforward requests for help, a willingness to embrace silliness even when things are actually really hard… The list could go on.
Anyways, I want to share this with you, in case it can be of help. Thank you Ruthi for pointing out this resource with me/us, thank you Vikki for writing and sharing it, and thank you Chris, Ronnie, and the countless other friendships that have shaped me. I’ll try to keep holding on with letting go…