“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E. L. Doctorow
I am pleased to introduce you to Lisa Irish. Lisa and I first met last summer met at the IWWG Conference in Muhlenburg University in Allentown , Pennsylvania. I began following Lisa’s blog, Glimmers , described on her website as:
… personal letters, little twinkles of light, are written to offer inspiration and connection to the larger community. It is hoped the voice of Love is heard through one woman’s experience and desire to share light with the world.
They are lovely reflections that make me step back and think about my life and my view of the world.
How Writing About Grief Became My Sacred Ground
After I offered an update on my year long writing project, my friend said, “It sounds like the book is writing you.” He was right. Each time I dipped back into the words to rework, edit or add source material, I re-entered sacred space. I returned to a place of waiting and deep listening. I hoped my message was authentic and true, at least from my point of view, and that it might help others. At the same time, the year of writing has helped me reach a place of honesty and humility that feels like home.
You might be wondering about my project, certainly the topic was as much a part of the process as the writing. After eleven years as a hospital chaplain with my primary ministry in bereavement, I had the opportunity to write about grief for publication. I began with CareNotes for Abbey Press and was later asked to rework one of them, Grieving with a Grateful Heart, into an Elf-Help book. It was published in January of 2016. At the same time, I pitched and was given a contract to write Grieving – the Sacred Art for Skylight Paths Publishing as part of their Sacred Art series. It was official – I was a writer.
Thus began my journey back into the Land of Loss. To explore the sacred art of grieving, my intention was to describe the landscape of Loss and offer tools to navigate it’s various territories. I knew the Well of Sadness and the demands of Surrender. I had traveled, over and over, through the agonizing forests of Passage and was painfully familiar with Secret Yearning. But I also knew the Fountain of Hope, it’s waters had soothed my journey and I believed it could offer hope to other travelers in the Land of Loss.
I did not understand, however, the impact that writing a book to help others would have on me. I did not fully appreciate the influence of the writing process on my inner life. Each time I returned to Alone, Passage, Surrender and Changed – the four territories in the land of Loss – I entered an emotional experience of feeling stranded, of surviving, of letting go, of allowing transformation. My work deepened after each revision, my heart claimed what I was learning.
My story is not woven into the body of the book, instead I shared stories of those I worked with at the hospital to illustrate how I have come to understand grief. But my story is, of course, the place I return to retrieve wisdom and insight, to find my ground. It is the counterpoint to fellow grievers’ stories, bereavement research and grief theories that I learned in my work as a chaplain. My story is my teacher. My friend’s suggestion that the book was “writing me,” gave voice to the gift that writing has become in my life. In this case, it led me to a felt-sense of my own transformation and a return to my soul.
Writing and grieving are similar. They each provide a reliable, yet mysterious, template for movement through the unknown.
As a writer, I may have a sense of where I am headed, but at the same time, I remain open to new ideas or shifts that ask a little more of me. Grief, too, offers a path to follow. But if I listen carefully, I might find myself asking questions or facing fears that come forward unexpectedly. While painful, grief guides me through loss toward love.
Grief is my ally in the ways of Loss, just as writing is my muse in the mystery of Life.
The light that each provides shines just as far as I need to make the journey, one step at a time. My task is to keep going and to trust the great Wisdom that underlies the human story, that informs my story.
Lisa Irish, MEd, MA is a board certified Chaplain, Spiritual Director and Retreat leader in central Connecticut. She was inspired by the International Women’s Writer’s Guild to create a website, www.lisairish.com, to facilitate her dreams for publication. The site became a launching place for her vision of This Little Light, a resource for encouraging, witnessing and sharing light in the world. She can also be found at www.facebook.com/lisairishlight/ for brief, uplifting messages. Lisa posts and distributes “Glimmers” though her website, CareNotes and her first book are published through Abbey Press. Her second book, Grieving – a Sacred Art will be published in 2017 through Skylight Paths Publishing.
Grieving with a Grateful Heart Synopsis:
Although each person’s needs and style of grieving is unique, there are universal themes that can help all of us. The invitation offered in this book reaches across individual ways of grieving to help you move toward healing. The author’s wisdom will help you cultivate a spirit of gratitude for your lost loved one, as you renew the bonds of love and discover that the love you shared will always endure.
Genre: Elf Self Help
Publisher: Abbey Press (2016)
Thank you Lisa for offering this hopeful and uplifting perspective on the grief process. Grief is so often feared or avoided but, through your work, you offer a template for understanding and using our grief to deepen our spiritual journey on this earth.
How about you? How does grief manifest itself in your life? Do you find gifts in grief?
We’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
Free Amazon download of April edition of The Book Fun Digital Magazine, April 17-18. I’m honored to have a story about my journey through my son’s addiction on page 65 under the Matters of the Heart section via Carol Graham
“Moments of Clarity: A Memoir Moment”
April 2017 Newsletter: Updates, Memoir Musings, Max Moments: