Group work on grief and feelings
NOTE: the readings referred to throughout this study are from John Steward’s book “From Genocide to Generosity.” It’s available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon
We remind ourselves of what makes this group a safe and free space.
We discover how much life impacts us when we consider the role of feelings and emotions on the path from grief to healing. Last session we saw some of the symptoms of grief that can be within us. In Eyewitness to Transformation (pages 23-25) we saw hope emerge in Josephine as she understood the purpose of deep grief. Now we reflect together on Insights from Josephine (pages 27-29) and Munyeli (page 51).
What were some of Josephine & Munyeli’s feelings?
What are my feelings today?
Returning to the Grief chart (above), we recall the downward curve on the left of the Grief cycle. The feelings listed there are part of what we might experience in times of grief, loss, disappointment, disaster, and shame. We often hold those feelings close to our heart – even suppress them, or pretend they are not there or not that important. But they are!
Comment on “Why this part of the cycle is important to me.”
The left side of the cycle does not include the word anger. We find it on the bottom right-hand side of the diagram; it is grouped with three other words that may flow from grief. Anger is the feeling that rises above the surface, like the tip of an iceberg. Hidden beneath anger is at least one of the kind of feelings on the left-hand side. This is always true about anger – it is the public face of un-acknowledged feelings that lie under the surface. That is why we call anger ‘the second feeling’. If I cannot express my real feeling, anger pops up to do it.
If I can say what I am feeling, then anger can become a good energy source.
Read page xiv from the Prologue and talk about how anger can grow from a simple cause.
Look at the bottom right of the chart (above). The expression of anger has three vicious companions: hatred, resentment and hostility. They are high intensity and may unleash violence (revenge). They can lead to abuse in various forms: physical, mental, psychological, emotional, economic, sexual, and spiritual. Abuse can be subtle, overt or disguised; it may be directed towards myself and/or others. Violence makes me less than I can be, and impact others – especially those I love.
People may not be aware of my deep feelings, because I hide or ignore them. Those I am close to, like my family, are more likely to see my expressions of anger with its three partners. I reveal these when I have no control of my feelings, or become impatient and choose violence. This happens because I fail to listen to my feelings or do not respect them or don’t express them in a healthy way.
Group talks about ‘What these thoughts mean for me, and how I relate to others.’
Now we explore the rest of the chart:-
Looking at the trough we see:-
a. The energy from the feelings that arise at times of grief and loss gathers within me. In this low place we begin to discover our ‘dragons’: we can feel a darkness that is threatening and unfriendly. This is where hatred, anger, resentment may burst out into hostility against others or myself.
b. If I repeatedly blame myself for feeling stuck I can remain caught in a cycle where I am held hostage by these difficult emotions and bad expressions. Self-blame (and shame) can trap me in that spot.
c. But… if I choose to find relief then hope will arise in new feelings of the kind shown on the rising curve of the chart. We may then experience some of the feelings on the right curve that bring light and new energy.
Chat in pairs about one heavy or dark feeling I have felt within me.
How can I move from the ‘storm’ of my difficult experiences and sad emotions to a hopeful place, more like a garden than a dungeon? Here is an exercise to explore this mystery for myself:
Think of a time when I found myself expressing one of the four ‘dragons’.
What were my feelings at that time? What action or event produced this negative energy in me? What did I do with the feelings and whose behavior did I model in my response? Was I able to experience any of the feelings on the side where the curve rises? How did that happen? What could have helped me?
We all might need to think more about this last question and come prepared to say something more next session. Talk over the questions with my support person.
Closing: what feelings do I need to face today? What has helped me today? Why was it helpful?
The preparation for the next session is to read pages 69-70, 73-75, and 80-81.