the grief gravy group

I have been part of an online therapeutic group with two young women and a therapist, for the past few weekends.

At our final session we were asked to creatively reflect on our journey and how the group has helped. Here’s my feeble effort.

The detail in this rich picture will be shared by the end of our story. Yes, I’m writing and it’s far from complete but it is progressing: at the pace of a snail slithering along on the shell of a tortoise that’s travelling backwards.

Please do feel free to guess what the different images represent. There maybe a prize.

The group been an incredible support and very productive to help me swim along the grief gravy river and keep my head above liquid.

I know you’ve seen it before but I had to post the drawing of Manjula again as today’s attempt is so baaaaad.

Monisha Srichand, the group therapist is a skilled facilitator. She got the balance just right, providing enough structure, guidance and professional input so everyone felt comfortable and confident to share their own challenges whilst enabling us to provide insightful support to other members of the group. Highly recommended.

I’ve also posted details of the empty chair technique used in one of the sessions where you will also find contact details for Monashi and a network of therapists.

A great representation of the group by one of its members. Spot the dog!

If you or anyone you know is dealing with grief and need help. I can recommend books, have a chat or recommend the therapist who facilitated our group.


“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
― Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

One or two great books

In Manjula’s library on grieving…..

Adult books. My two top picks would be Didion and Grief and Grieving.
and children’s books, that this child loves. Memory Tree and Heart and the Bottle are fab but they’re all great.

Manjula’s kind

Brain pickings on kindness and grief, because like everything in the world they’re connected.

KINDNESS

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

If you haven’t yet discovered brain pickings do pay it a visit and consider joining its mailing list and offering support.

“Those who experience, not the arts, but nature, may have a similar response, and also those who experience another human being. Do we not know the feeling that overtakes us when we are in the presence of a particular person and, roughly translates as, The fact that this person exists in the world at all, this alone makes this world, and a life in it, meaningful.” Viktor Frankl also from Brain Pickings

Or more on grieving

Grief… happens upon you, it’s bigger than you. There is a humility that you have to step into, where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own timeframe, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more… The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility and you let it rock you until it is done with you. And it will be done with you, eventually. And when it is done, it will leave. But to stiffen, to resist, and to fight it is to hurt yourself. Elizabeth Gilbert

We need more

Some would say it’s best to place your memories of your loved one in a special place, in your heart and the ‘things’ in a box for you to sometimes get out.

No fear… That’s not happening here.

This one is to prove my wc credentials.

Manjula would often complain about there being too many pictures in our home and not enough room.

There’s plenty of room, (except in my heart, which she’s mostly filled) even more pics now and (usually) I love seeing her peeking out and catching me unawares.

It’s full on photos and all stages of grief piled on top of each other, she wouldn’t expect anything less.

Manjula would of course, just get on with things.

Sally

Sally is one of those guests that you’ve no idea when they first arrived and keep popping up so much you wonder if they ever leave. She’s clearly become besotted by India.

Sally is a creative who works in broadcast media in the UK on one of the most iconic soaps as Costume Designer. But can turn her hand to many things: design, textiles, writing, costume making, continuity, tours, and her beautiful home and garden, all while supporting her mum.

I’ve lost count how many times she’s been to visit and has now set up her own business providing carefully curated textile travels in south India. She’s also on Facebook and as Textile Travels

On Manjula’s first holiday to the U.K. we had an amazing adventure with Sally and her partner Mike in a narrowboat adding travel along the canal to Manjula’s list of great experiences in our all too short time together.

We have a lot in common, not least that we both recently lost our loved ones. Recently she’s taken the lead in helping us design a patchwork quilt and appliqué banner from Manjula’s clothes that will soon appear at Mysore Bed and Breakfast.

I look forward to her return and the way she’s going think she’ll spend more and more of her year in India.

Sally is a diamond gal (what does that mean Stephen? Your writing is supposed to be improving – the gentler Ed) officially now ‘family’ and has joined those who’ve returned here to provide incredible support over the most difficult time in my life.

Thank you Sally

Latest read

A lovely novel translated from the Swedish about a man coming to terms with a difficult new situation. Five golden stars.

A man called Ove.

I worried, as I started reading the book that, he was like my father and I was getting to be like that. Oh no! It didn’t quite work that way.

Love in the time of virus

It’s occurred to me today that there were three layers of love, with ‘you-know-who.’

The first was when we were ‘falling-in-love’.

it was all too much for Lucie

The second was when our relationship was recognised by us and our guests. (Some noticed before us)

The third layer was after she slipped through my clumsy fingers and left for her new life.

Over time I get to know her better and love her more.

….

our big photo album

…….

with thanks to Gabriel

Why write to Manjula?

Thank you for your kind responses via messages, phone calls, Facebook and here on this site, to my two letters. It’s been important for me to share and feel your support.

In passing through the grief portal of pain to love, to understand and know Manjula better. I’ve found a few useful books.

The letter to Manjula was me talking to her to recognise my loss, and share with her, my remorse which I wasn’t able to before she died. It’s part of a process outlined in the grief handbook the book on top of the pile.

Is the latest I read, especially useful as there was a distinct loss of meaning and still is to an extent.

I’ve maybe written the letter a dozen times but it’s only now I’ve felt able to share it with her. In therapeutic groups or pairs they’ll often read their letter out to each other.

It’s quite interesting to shift from focussing on her body/ego to her soul spirit wherever that might now be.

It’s been quite a journey from the devastation I felt through to recognising my absolute love and devotion to Manjula. There’s now more sweet and less bitter and my first thought is now more likely to bring a smile, than a tear.

I now know her better, partly as I’m researching and writing our story.

Meanwhile Mysore comes back to life. There’s been an unlocking. Here’s a few shots from our morning walk

Taking home a palm branch for his fire.
Any opportunity to sell and survive
Lucie in our park after today’s walk. Determined to keep away from me and entice ticks.
Ha ha this one isn’t from our walk 🙂 it’s one of Manjula’s favourite flowers and now a tattoo.

Storytime four and three quarters

There’s two stories today, well one is a sad story ‘The Memory Tree’ so check it out before you show it to a little one. It’s a lovely story in its own right and really useful in a context of a wider conversation about death. Here is a link to how I explained to my granddaughter Poppy what happens when someone dies. This was after Manjula slipped through my fingers.

The next is a rhyme by Roald Dahl, a different take on Cinderella.

I’ve had a technical question from my granddaughter about my filming set up. I expect that behind this question is an ulterior motive. That I need to up my game and improve the quality of the video. So I’m trying a different Heath Robinson set-up. It’s a bit out of focus, for that I blame my age.

Here’s the photographic evidence of my studio.

I know with all this effort, you’d expect the quality to be better. Well I blame my parents.

Lovely quotes

Here’s a recent post from my Facebook page.

I admitted that I hadn’t quite got round to my letter to Manjula ( I still haven’t managed to complete it) and referred back to a wonderful review from a previous guest Manjir who visited years ago with her husband and daughter. Here’s the review. and original posting. It helps show why we loved sharing our home and will continue to.

Manjir has just written to me today, remembering Manjula, with kind thoughts and has shared a great quote from Rabindranath Tagore: “In the dualism of death and life there is a harmony. We know that the life of a soul, which is finite in its expression, and infinite in its principle, must go through the portals of death in its journey to realise the infinite.” Thank you for your support Manjir.

It reminds me of another quote I also found this week, which also resonates as I work through the pain of grief to discover my and Manjula’s love: “anyone who has experienced the passing of someone close knows that death is a portal to love.”