When I was just a 16-year-old girl, my cute boyfriend of the moment asked me, “If you could be anybody, who would you choose?” I immediately answered, “Mary!” (Mother of Jesus) Oh, my . . . the hubris of the young! Little did I know, however, that my biggest lessons would come because of that desire to mother. Indeed, five little boys were born to me at regular intervals over a ten-year period of time.
Though falling far short of the Divine Mother, I felt so whole and happy in that dream-come-true time of my life! My sense of self was wrapped up in those children and their well-being. But it was not destined to last. Who are we in the face of death and loss?
That’s the question that begs to be answered. The dying and death of my precious son Michael launched me into years of agony and introspection. I couldn’t protect him or save him, ultimately, and with him went my sense of self and well-being. I was absolutely shattered. Since that devastating time, I’ve come to see grief as an aperture, an entry point to personal growth and transformation, a true wilderness fit for a hero’s journey that takes us from vulnerability to strength.
I didn’t choose this work; rather, it seems to have chosen me. I’ve been called to walk the path and to guide others through the treacherous landscape of grief and loss.
For me, Michael’s death was the end of life as I knew it, but it was also a beginning, an experience that has led me to deeper compassion, strength, and wisdom. Rather than denying, repressing or resisting grief, I’ve found that our wellness paradoxically increases as we’re able to embrace our losses and weave them into the fabric of our lives to the point that we’re not just surviving, but thriving in the realization that we’re more than our experiences of grief and loss.
Death, change, and loss do not have to diminish us; indeed, it has been said that Death is the Great Advisor, and today I can say that grief is the raw stuff of life that has transformed me and moved me forward with courage and purpose. It’s a great privilege to sit with others as a witness to their deepest experience of humanity, not as a teacher, but as a friend – hand in hand in trust and faith, there’s gentle movement toward living the wholeness of who we are. Forging a new sense of self, we see ourselves not as victims, but deeply empowered to make choices which support personal health, happiness, and freedom.
I lovingly hold a healing space for participants to work with their issues of grief and loss and acknowledge core beliefs that do not serve their highest good. I am humbled and grateful that out of the ashes of deep personal pain, I can assist in the relief of human suffering by sharing the gift of Good Grief Guidance.
When I die, give what is left of me to others;
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers and sisters walking beside you.
Put your arms around somebody
And give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you with something,
Something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me,
Then let me live on in your eyes, your mind, and your acts of kindness.
Love does not die; people do.
So when all that is left of me is love,
Give me away.
- Adapted from Merrit Malloy