I have spent this weekend with an amazing group of women on a writing retreat. We all arrived at the tiny monastery town with our journals and our laptops, our fears and our expectations. We spent the weekend writing, chatting, and walking around the beautiful peace-filled grounds of New Norcia. And then on the last night we sat around in a circle and shared our writing. A beautiful gathering of women with stories in their hands, offering their fragile hearts and words to one another.
It was beautiful and it was profound.
What was amazing about the stories shared this weekend is that they were stories of grief, of pain, of loss, of being hurt, and of hurting others. We don’t often share these stories.
In this Instagram picture-perfect world we live in, we share our highlight reel, the best of our life. And let’s be honest sharing those hurts and griefs takes a lot more than an Instagram caption, nor is it wise.
But when you gather in a circle, like women have done for centuries, and you look into each woman’s eyes as she shares, you understand that you are in the presence of something beautiful and something sacred. For each story told around that circle was not just one of pain but of the healing intertwined in the midst of the pain.
We often see things in black and white, and yes, I do feel our continually updating news cycle and social-media driven world feeds this. There is no room for a place of grey. For grey is where the black and white co-exist, where the sorrow and the joy are present in one and the same time, where healing and loss can meet in a moment.
I am just about to release my book Beauty in the Ashes: Learning to Lament. It is a book about the grey. A book about the middle. It is a book written for those in the midst. It is filled with stories of grief, stories of divorce, miscarriage, infertility and loss. And yet in those stories there is beauty in the midst of the pain and healing intermingled with sorrow.
There was such courage in that room in New Norcia, there was such courage in those women, because as Brené Brown puts it so perfectly:
Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief.
This weekend, I experienced once again the power in owning our stories of hurt and sorrow; the sacredness in sharing our stories; and the beauty in offering our stories of grief to others. This weekend I experienced once more the beauty in the ashes.
PS: For those of you interested in my new book, Beauty in the Ashes will be launched on the 4th July and will be available for purchase on my shop from then. If you would like to attend the book launch please contact me for details.