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Susan’s gift

I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

Merrit Malloy (Extract from a poem called Epitaph.)

Grief is present in us for different reasons at the moment. On the 17th of this month, we lost an NVC friend called Susan. The above is part of a poem that she shared with her friends on Facebook shortly before her death. Last month we did a Life Hack on mourning and next month we start a Grief Circle here in Bristol.

Gesine feels a wave of sadness and heaviness relating to Susan’s death. This loss also reminds her of other losses that she has experienced. For example, since moving to the UK she has felt a loss of close connection with family and friends in Germany. Shantigarbha feels sad to lose such a creative and inspiring person, who ran a Quaker retreat centre almost single-handedly, and tried to integrate NVC into her work and life. Many people will miss her contribution to life.

We find it important to acknowledge loss. We can create a safe space by saying that all feelings are welcome. By all feelings, we mean the multitude of feelings that can accompany losses: confusion, shock, despair, anger, guilt and shame, depression, sadness, gratitude, warmth, love, relief and so on.

All feelings are welcome because they point us to the meaning and significance of the loss. It’s important not to try to take the feelings away — they may be the most alive connection we have with our loss. Feelings are how life is moving through us at the moment. If we go deeply into mourning, we come to what is most precious in our life, be it care, love, closeness, belonging, warmth, support, or meaning and inspiration.

Most of us come from cultures where we have learned to hide unpleasant, painful feelings and only show happy feelings. There is a cost to this, when it comes to mourning — we don’t know how to do it. If mourning is incomplete, it can lead to the familiar state of depression.

Susan wanted to be remembered through the poem. Look for her in the people she has known or loved. So, when all that’s left of her is love, we can give her away.