Image source: communitytable.parade.com
Using these drawings, along with personal sacred objects that we've brought to the workshop, we build the first in a series of altars (we call these altars "Stations of the Heart").
This first altar represents the sense of loss and isolation we often feel when we are bereaved. As a group, we reflect on these feelings by connecting with each other's drawings and sacred objects to establish a community bond that honors each person's experience.
"I can't thank you enough for the Workshop last Sunday. My husband died suddenly a little over a year ago, and your workshop with its emphasis on ritual and the spiritual came at just the right time. The most beneficial parts for me were the ritual combined with the music and chanting. I so appreciated the Stations of the Heart! I feel I have been stuck at Station 1, and this ritual helped me start thinking about moving to the other stations. Other groups, books, and internet resources are full of talking and intellectualizing. Your work took me to non-linear, symbolic ways of processing, and helped fill the gap which exists between my grief and the way our culture treats grief."
Anne Olson, Portland, OR
LEARNING OBJECTIVES FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDITS
. Analyze embedded beliefs and social constructs about life and loss
. Apply critical thinking skills
. Articulate the benefits of grieving in community
. Design bereavement rituals and ceremonies
. Demonstrate awareness of religious and spiritual diversity and its impact on the grief process
. Discuss the importance of connecting deeply with our own pain and the pain of others
. Demonstrate knowledge of best practices for offering professional support to the dying and the bereaved
This is followed by another art therapy process called "The Story String," in which we weave our loss stories into a ball of string that will "hold" our stories, our pain and our prayers. The energy held in this string will be released as part of the third Station of the Heart.
The final Station is our closing ceremony, in which we honor the work we've done in the workshop by releasing our prayers and intentions -- through the symbolic objects we've created -- to the earth and the natural elements. This ceremony is performed outdoors, and represents our acceptance of impermanence, our grounding in the earth, our ties to our ancestors and a sense of renewal as we return to our daily lives.
Each workshop is custom-created, and time frames vary according to the venue and the requests of our host organizations. Some of our workshops begin on Friday evening and continue through Sunday afternoon, while others take place on one day only, and others may be only 2-4 hours long.
Here is a general overview of the basic processes that you might experience in one of our workshops. Although there are variations, this is the basic template...
WHAT YOU WILL EXPERIENCE AT ONE OF OUR WORKSHOPS
We begin with brief attendee and instructor introductions, and then open sacred space via either a guided meditation, drumming, singing, or an opening prayer.
After an introductory lecture and demonstration designed to help us examine any limiting beliefs that may be hindering our healing, we gather into small groups for an art therapy process called "drawing your grief landscape," which is followed by sharing our drawings -- and our stories -- with our groups.
After a brief lecture about multi-cultural approaches to mourning, grief research and the intersection of spirituality & psychology, we move to the second Station of the Heart, which represents our inner strengths and resources.
In this process, we tap in to our ability to work with with divine energy to help us move forward in the healing journey. We do this by symbolically "re-filling" the empty space in a beautiful ceremony that uses rose petals and water to represent cleansing, releasing and communion with the spiritual world.
"Thank you for breaking open our grieving hearts and calling back the lost parts of our souls. You guided as back to ourselves. As a Sacred Community,we healed each other and ourselves."
Kathy Werner-Leap, Mental Health NP,
Santa Rosa, CA