The Girl Project workshops are, to some degree, sacred. We start the first hour establishing our “closed container” in which we have a set of morals we created and established in order to participate in this project as our highest selves. We will work toward what the highest self is as the workshops evolve, but from our beginnings we challenge ourselves to let go of pettiness including day to day negative energy that can culminate when we are rushed or over-worked and wish we could have stayed in bed a moment longer.
It’s not hard to let go of such things once we are in the room and we have the opportunity to be with one of our long line of amazing female teaching artists.
However, my motivation for our workshop this past Saturday was one I couldn’t anticipate and certainly didn’t expect so early in our process.
We have a basket that sits in the room with us. This basket serves as an anonymous place for anyone to drop a question, concern or idea they would like to be discussed. These questions, concerns or ideas will be discussed openly, without judgment, at the next workshop.
The very first piece of paper Vanessa, Christy and I unfolded after our very first workshop with these amazing young women had one word written on it – GRIEF.
My mind went on overdrive: “who put this in here”, “what kind of grief are they struggling with”, “how do we address such a complicated issue without any details” and on and on. My heart began to hurt that we had to wait four weeks to address such an issue that shouldn’t have to wait four weeks.
But it had to wait the long four weeks till we met, and after some struggle with how to broach such a topic and some research into not only grief, but teenage grief (yes there is a difference), we sat in a circle and I tried to be as straight forward as possible. Here are the things we discussed…
- Grief is very personal and individual. No two people will experience grief the exact same way. That is why grief is so complicated.
- What is grief? A keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.
- Teenagers experience grief differently than adults. Although we see teenagers as young adults, their coping abilities are very different than that of an adult and therefore have to be treated gently and thoughtfully. That is why it might feel as though you are alone in your grief as a teenager.
- Talking about grief is VERY difficult for teenagers. Their friends, if they haven’t experienced feelings of this depth, might avoid the topic or have a hard time empathizing. Adults, on the other hand, try to “fix” the problem. Most of the time a teenager needs someone to simply listen. Listen. Hear their feelings and that is all.
- We discussed negative ways of dealing with grief. Drawing negative attention to yourself or harming yourself rather than talking about your feelings. We discussed the well intended desire to put tons of positive energy out when you are feeling grief so everyone will think you are doing fine. We also discussed the happy medium of putting your feelings out there to someone you know will hear you and listen to the best of their ability.
It took those few simple yet ever important details to realize that the best thing I can do in this closed container is LISTEN. It seems so simple. But whether you are a teenager or an adult, all any human can hope for when they are experiencing grief is that someone will be there to LISTEN when they are ready to talk.
I have had grief in my life, very personal grief. I would guess that most people my age have experienced it on some level. I do internalize it. I don’t like to cry in front of people. I don’t like to be held or touched or coddled when I am hurting. I like to be alone, behind a closed door and I cannot talk until I am ready…if ever. As an actress I am the opposite, I share pain well. When I am acting I am feeling things not only for myself but also for the audience. You carry their hearts in your heart and hope they can live in your experience. It is my duty to let them feel my heart break. I can share my grief and live my grief best through my art.
I am learning with these girls. We are all learning with this project. Every workshop we will be reminded why this type of work is not only important but VITAL.
Our assignment for the month of November is …
- Make a collage of grief. Literal – Abstract – a thousand pictures collaged together of a loved one you have lost – 100 shades of red collaged together. Collage grief.
- Personify grief. With as many detailed descriptions as possible, personify grief.
I look forward to hearing their personifications and seeing their collages.
In the basket at the end of the second class there were several anonymous topics.
One piece of paper read “thank you for talking about grief.”