Artistic Director, Dramatherapist
It starts with a crack. Neither an intellectual nor a metaphoric sense of a crack. You are able to hear the sound. Your body is cracking after an earthquake that have shaken the very core of your existence. And it affects and emotes everything: your sense of self, your ability to see and understand the world you live in. As if, a dentist is performing a tooth extraction on you but without anaesthetic and the tooth, is becoming your whole body. In other words: uprooted. Then, some time after the delayed anaesthetic starts dripping into your body, everything will be covered with a thick unknown substance. You are ready to welcome numbness into your life. In the beginning is comforting and slowly it becomes an every day habit.
People moving on with their routine. But you stand there, you might not literally stand, you might be able to perform every task with a mask of normality and maybe if you are still under the influence of the anaesthetic, you might be performing better than before. Remember that your skin is numb, so you might not even feel tired. In fact, your sense of numbness might seems pretty productive for a while in other areas of your life: your job tasks and your relationship with others.
In our contemporary society, grief is often seen under the scope of medicalisation. It has been added to the long list of illnesses that require assessment, diagnosis and treatment. And I don’t doubt that it has helped many under the recovery process. However, there is a part or a stage or place during the grief process that it is messy and often difficult to put into words and be placed into the boxes of medical labelling. There are few places that wilderness is allowed in our everyday life. Wilderness might appear in many forms and faces. It might appear in the form of depression, anxiety, loosing control or a sense of ‘going crazy’. She/he/it often knocks on your door sometimes silently in your sleep or in a moment of relaxation and discreet asks for permission to enter. Other times, she might appear uninvited, come unexpectedly and demands to be confronted, embraced and met in new, inventive and creative ways.
Dr. Lois Holzman refers to Dr. Cacciatore in her “DSM5 and Ethical Relativism,” that speaks of the “bereavement exclusion”(BE) in American DSM. ‘In the current manual, the DSM IV, this exclusion means that a person who has suffered the death of a loved one may be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) no less than two months following the loss.
Holzman in her book ‘Vygotsky’s at Work and Play,’ speaks about Vygotsky’s take on creativity defined as ‘a social – cultural activity of human beings transforming what exists in something new’ (L. Holzman). Robert Romanyshyn uses the idea of the recovery of the imaginal world or a metaphoric world to open the field of experience which – according to him – is neither an empirical fact nor a mental idea. A metaphor – similarly with creativity – forms a new vision of reality and invite us to experience a moment of revelation where something new is getting born. Romanyshyn describes this as a ‘small miracle, a moment when the depths of the imaginal break through the ordinary’ (R. Romanyshyn) and maybe become something ‘extra’ ordinary.
For some, grief work requires contemplation and an inward look. For others, needs to be shared and created together with others. It might require going to the wilderness. When this wilderness becomes a shared, lived experience as if a socio – cultural activity that we dare to imagine collectively then we might imagine a new space where the inner and the outer are not mutually exclusive but are being integrated. What that practically might mean it could also become a moment of ‘miracle’ an ‘aha’ discovery in the space between. A space where the personal and collective dimensions of grief work are intermingled and being waved together in the process for recovery.
Lois Holzman (2008) Vygotsky at Work and Play, Routledge
Lois Holzman (2012) Can You Grieve and Not Be Labeled with a Mental Disorder www.loisholzman.org/
Robert D. Romanyshyn (1999) The Soul in Grief: Love, Death and Transformation, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA