Clergy Support Memorial Church

A Church Without Walls

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The Many Colours of Grief: Helping those who grieve understand the language of others

by Rev Gail Malcolm

Gail Malcolm

I begin by thanking Clergy Support Memorial Church and their Micro-Grant program for allowing me the opportunity to contribute and support the Home Hospice Association with a personalized and targeted workshop to help people understand how communication can be very different based on one’s personality. In times of grief, the words used by people are often not heard in the way intended because of the pain and the disconnection people are feeling within their world. People speak from their own place and often they listen from that space only as well.

In my work over the past 27 years using both tools of True Colors and Personality Dimensions, I have watched, listened and noted the many truths that understanding personality can offer. I have also done my own studies on some of the pieces that resonate with me. And I have walked beside and borne witness to the challenges faced by those who grieve. This language is not usually discussed. People generally only want to learn about strengths and understand the skills and abilities that come from those areas. It is harder to face the dark side (that we all have) with the same degree of honesty or embracement. Grief is a natural conduit to this side of our lives. In grief, we can be devastated, in great pain, depressed, sorrowful, laughing, cherishing, and crying… all within moments. Each personality has its own way of speaking and communicating, and its own needs that are wanting to be met. And our needs often influence our listening.

In this workshop, I wanted to give others some understanding of the language of grief and how personality traits show up in responses, expectations and experiences. I prepared a Power Point presentation as well as a 12-page take away handout for all of the participants in order to be able to offer a continued reference as well. I would like to introduce to you how I came to be a part of this. Home Hospice Association staff and volunteers host a regular learning experience for those who are grieving or supporting those who are dying or grieving through their series called Many Faces of Compassion where they inspire others to learn more so that we can all walk in each other’s shoes with compassion, insight and respect. I became aware of this organization after carefully and thoughtfully seeking training to become a death doula. I have been volunteering with our local hospice for several years now, providing volunteer support for grieving family members who have lost a loved one…mother, sibling, child, father, wife or husband. Their training program is top notch. In my work with people in multiple fields over the years, this seemed a natural segue into the next step of my life. I have been conducting weddings and Celebrations of Life for almost 20 years.

I have been highly impressed by the degree of knowledge, caring and thoughtful preparation that has not only gone into their training programs, but also into all of the additional supports they have created for individuals across the country or globally who might access their website and opportunities. When they asked me if I would be open to delivering a workshop to support their greater community, I was honoured. I knew at that time that I would like to bring Clergy Support Memorial Church with me as there was a strong alignment to reaching out to those who are in need of a sense of empathy, faith, and the sacredness of this part of our life journey.

On May 20th, I was able to deliver my workshop to many participants from a variety of different communities and backgrounds. Some were professionals, some were volunteers, some were those who were actively grieving and others were in search of growing more as individuals who know that grief will touch their lives. Home Hospice provided me with a treasure trove of helpers who took care of the on-line components, offered technical support, sent me messages to keep me centered and in the middle of the screen, participated in operating live quiz portions which I had given them in order for us to have an active participation and who made sure that all aspects of delivery went well. It was a scary start. I have delivered this in person hundreds of times over the years. I had never delivered an online workshop before so I was grateful for all of the assistance this great group provided. We were ready to go and all of a sudden, the power in my area went off!

Not a great start here! Fortunately, it was rectified within about 10 minutes but until I was back into the system, I was very stressed. Of all times for this to happen and with no control. I could not email the team but I was able to text a message and so their leadership had jumped online and handled things beautifully until I could re-connect. The workshop lasted for 90 minutes and included a time for questions and discussion at the end. I did take the opportunity to thank CSMC at the beginning and at the end for their financial support of this workshop and the production support involved.

In addition to the generous gift from CSMC, I also personally donated the opportunity for participants to take an on-line personality assessment, which I paid for myself so that they could be prepared ahead or even after, in terms of getting the maximum learning opportunity. I was pleased to be able to donate not only my time but my own professional and certifiable resources to this experience.

I received very positive feedback from the workshop. Participants were also very pleased to have the print out. It allowed them to be present and not have to take notes and as well, to have a tool to refer back to. As there are many different learning styles, this is especially helpful for those who need to process information and think it through as they apply the teaching. I had one participant who stated she loved the presentation and wished she could have me present to another group that she volunteers with. I was grateful that the workshop resonated with all and for me, if only one small part helps someone to be kinder, more compassionate and less judgmental with others in times grief, it will be a blessing!

Serving others through the gifts of ritual in marriage and in understanding how to truly celebrate life transitions is my future. In faith, in caring and in love for others, I hope to continue to be able to walk beside others in silence (which is still communication) or by finding the words that speak to the hearts of those who are grieving or dying. It is a privilege to do so.