• Dina Stander

Dancing With the Bones: Distanced Grieving

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

This blog post is based on the content of a workshop that I offered online on April 5, 2020, called Dancing With the Bones: old skills and new practices for 'distanced grieving'. I am an end-of-life navigator, poet, burial shroud maker, and the founder of the Northeast Death Care Collaborative. I use the word navigator for my work because in addition to end-of-life doula certification I've been a funeral celebrant for over a decade and have training in chaplaincy, coaching, and conflict resolution. If you'd like to find out more about my work or you have an interest in the Phone of the Wind, please explore the rest of my website.

I'll be posting a recording of the workshop soon, and also wanted to share this encouraging and friendly session as a whole reflection, without the distraction of zoom. BE AWARE: My intended audience for this content was folks already working in end of life care. I have not provided a gentle lead in with the death stuff, we dive right in. I've left in a bit of grounding meditation in the beginning, in case this sort of thing is useful for you. ;-)

Thank you for visiting my blog, Signs of Life. In this corona virus age I offer all of my work and services for free, and also welcome donations on a pay as you can basis. There is a button at the bottom of the pages here on my website, a dollar here and there is most welcome in these times.

Also, a note about online meeting spaces. I read (some place online) an explanation for why we are all so exhausted when we get off of these virtual gatherings. It turns out that we are experiencing a cognitive dissonance between what is happening for our heads (oh look! A room full of people who I can see and talk to in real time…) and what is happening for our bodies (yes, but obviously I am not in a room full of people because none of my other sensory bells are ringing). And so we sign off of calls with an inner confusion. Awareness of this dissonance can help you to reassure your body and your mind that they are both making correct interpretations of what is so. I am sharing this because I found it to be a huge comfort to be able to tell myself, often, that it is ok not to be ok.

Yes, it is ok not to be ok. We are here to talk about distanced grieving because human beings are in crisis. There are two major looming fears I see emerging over covid deaths. One is that we will be separated from each other during active dying (whether we are the dying person or the well person) with no way to say goodbye with out risking more contagion and death. The other is that we will not be able to gather for family and community support for mourning rituals that we have been assured are important to healthy grieving. My intention is to offer a perspective on ways you can access the inner and worldly resources that will support you to show up for your people, in a grounded and calm way. (This is not a discussion about how to organize funeral rites online, there is plenty of advice available for artfully lining up those ducks.)

Let's begin with the assumption that we all share the common predicament and grace of being mortal earthlings and that under the circumstances we are doing the best we can. We each bring skills, wisdom, and craft to the work we do as end-of-life practitioners (in whatever profession) in this time of pandemic.

Welcome mortals. I am going to talk about how we will pull the wisdom to navigate these times from our roots. Thank you for making time to be here on the page with me. Thank you for taking good care of yourselves, of each other, your family and community. Thank you for being willing to prepare your heart for the sorrow that is coming, so that you can hold space for others whose hearts are breaking. Thank you for being able to bend and reach deep into root and bone and lift again, then bend and lift again, and again, because walking with death is the labor of celebrating life.

Because covid-19 robs people of air, let us honor their labor and take a moment for a few breaths. Center in your seat and bring this life giving air deep all the way to your feet, then release this breath down, into your connection