February 20, 2019

From The Grief Files Part II: Mothers’ Journeys Of Letting Go, To Hold Better

I don’t believe in accidents. I never have. I believe that bad things happen to good people, but I have to maintain that God has a hand in showing us the path to our higher learning from tragedy. In the grief work that has become a major focus for my current practice, I am blessed to witness the migrations of mothers who mourn. They are– beyond courageous. They are–the subject of this post, because in being a parent, the process of “coming to terms” with the loss of a child has a complication that almost no one but another parent can understand.

Any mother will tell you it’s a thankless job. No matter how old your children become, somehow, they can always hold you responsible for not doing things their way, otherwise known as the “right way.” When they shine you are Mother of the Year, and when they flounder, it can always be traced back to something you did or didn’t do. There’s no day off, there’s no bonus or hazard pay, and there’s no pension, but there is an unspoken commitment to nurture and guide that transcends age and even our time here on the planet. When mothers come to me there are a lot of “should haves” and “what ifs” accompanying them, even when their logical mind tells them there is nothing they could have done.

Rachel’s story:

Rachel came into my life when I was working at a booth at a health-focused festival. I could tell instantly she was not your average bear, smelling of essential oils and draped in layers of many colors and coordinating stones. She looked the part and pardoned the look; healer to healer, it takes one to know one. I believe she told me that day that she had lost her adult son a few months earlier, but it wasn’t for many months after that at an actual healer gathering, that she agreed to come to my Grief Support group. “I need to come,” she said. Rachel’s son was also a healer, a bright light and somewhat of a mystic legend in his community. He was so beloved by others that his passing seemed more like a glitch in the Matrix than just another unexplained tragedy.

The two were especially close, working together sometimes, speaking daily, soul connected. “The irony,” Rachel said, “is that he battled life-threatening cancer for years. I knew I would lose him young, but I wasn’t ready and I didn’t think it would be from something else—–I’m just so angry at his friends, they KNEW he wasn’t strong enough to go riding that day.” “Did he know it?” I asked her.  After a long pause she said, “He did. But that’s just how he was, he transcended boundaries, and now he has transcended the ultimate boundary.”

It is often said that silence and rest are as important as the notes played in music. This was especially true in working with Rachel, because she herself was an empath, an intuitive helper, a sage. She had already done so much of her own work. What could Music Therapy offer her? I worked with Rachel mostly in a group setting, but a few times individually when we ended up by chance with a group of one (it happens). With the group we played singing bowls, and she chose a special song (one she felt had a connection to her son) to share with others for song analysis, we used instruments to give the loss a voice. In each instance it was sort of like co-leading the group because of her implicit knowledge. The group format offered a specific container to hold some of her overwhelming grief, as it does for any participant, but it also gave her a framework to model her best self to others. The group setting allowed her to cry, but then to hold others when they cried. It allowed her to sing along with her own song choice, but with others in the room to be with the experience in a more structured fashion. Finally, it allowed her to discover that she indeed still had a calling to serve and that a new vision of how to implement that calling would be forthcoming. Rachel and I worked on this using some imagery and music experiences individually as well. I encouraged her to dig and dig and dig until she knew exactly how she was supposed to channel both her gifts and her pain into a new life purpose.

One day Rachel came to group with some writing to share. She had been asked to share her grief story in a collection to be published and once she started telling her tale, there was no stopping her. Reading it in a small setting of people with similar longings seemed to validate and direct her. It wasn’t long before a combination of dreams, symbols and what other people may call coincidences led her to start a special Facebook Group for grieving mothers called—Lullaby Letters– (links listed by permission at the conclusion of this article).

Lately Rachel hasn’t made it to the group. She’s been too busy hiking with her grandkids, offering her own groups, and living out loud with a destiny re-defined.