The teary-eyed, middle-aged woman sits across from me with her head resting in her left hand. Her little finger is in her mouth; the nail being bitten off. The white-haired man beside her repeatedly wipes his weather-worn hands on his blue jeans as he introduces himself. The young woman who sits furthest away from the group rolls her tissues into a ball between her two hands…
I watch this nervous energy in every support group I facilitate, every time grievers gather.
So, I hand them my stone.
A soapstone I purchased online years ago, when I started facilitating support groups. I wasn’t sure how I would use it, but I love its symbolism. The stone is heart-shaped, golden-yellow about 2 ½” x 2 ½”, and fits comfortably in one’s palm.
There are dark lines that seem to be cracks throughout the stone, although none of them have broken the heart in half. The surface remains smooth, even and intact despite the presence of the lines.
In Mark Nepo‘s book entitled, The Book of Awakening, he states: “Symbols are living mirrors of the deepest understandings that have no words…We ask the smallest items of everyday life to carry unbearable meaning for us, and the dearest one’s work like Aladdin‘s lamp.”
So, when I offer this small symbol, every person I hand it to examines the stone, turns it in their hand and rubs the surface.
Then I say, “This is a healing heart. It has been held by hundreds of grieving people. Their tears have spilled onto its surface and their hands have supported it just like yours. Their pain was once as raw as yours, but they have continued to live and travel through the darkness.”
I invite them to tell the group their story while holding the stone. Of course, they are given permission to pass, never feeling pressure to share, or they can wait until the end if it feels more comfortable by that time.
Then I sit back in awe of the transformation that occurs. I see the deep inhalations as participants take their turn, rolling the stone over and over in their hands.
Their brokenness is acknowledged.
Their nervous energy has a place to land.
A deep sense of connection to others is established.
They now feel empowered to tell their story as they hold this small symbol of hope and healing.
Did you have a symbol or special possession that helped you through your journey of loss? Tell me about it here…
I have a very similar heart shaped stone that I keep on my bed side table. I have often held it close to my heart as I talked to or sang to my late husband. The stone would always start out cold but would be warmed by my body. It always feels like a safe place to pour my grief into. I facilatate a monthly grief support group at St Mary’s and I think I will follow your wisdom and share it with them.
The other thing that is always by my bedside is a journal that I would nightly pour my thoughts, prayers and grief into. For the first year or so it was nearly every day that I’d scribble my feelings down. Now a year and a half later it’s sometimes a week in between but at other times I go back to daily logs. It’s been interesting to look back now to a year ago to see what how my journey has changed through time.
I think you will find the heart to be a wonderful addition to your group! I wish I would have kept a journal but encourage people to do so for the very reason that it is sometimes easier to read the progression of their healing vs. feeling it!! Thanks for taking time to read and share your ideas Beth!