Grief, Loss, and Transition

Hope and Transformation

In my many years as a clinical social worker I am often asked, “How can you work in that field?  It must be very depressing!”

Yes, I have worked with suffering most of my life.  In high school I got a job in a nursing home and spent time preparing food for the residents, feeding the residents, and spending time with them. I recall many emotions during my many interactions with those folks.  However, most of it was compassion. I felt compassion even as a young child and felt compelled to rescue worms out of rain puddles. So, it probably isn’t surprising that I became interested in helping people and eventually got my Masters Degree in Social Work.

I have worked with a variety of suffering in my work. One client of mine lost her husband after 50 years of marriage.  She also had a history of severe child abuse from her teens. I worked with her as her mental health therapist and we explored her grief, loss, and trauma history together. She went through some really tough times.  At the end of our time together she was starting her own business! This was a transition, a transformation, a spiritual journal for her. I was so grateful to be there with her.

During my Masters program I spent two weeks among the poor and destitute in El Salvador. I visited garbage dumps where people lived in make shift shacks, living with open wounds and little food or hope. Thankfully, there was a wonderful social service organization there that was helping to make a difference.  Even among the most desperate people, there is always hope. They still knew how to smile, how to laugh, how to experience joy.

In my work I have met some remarkable people. People who have come through tremendous suffering.  People who have come through incredible loss. Their journeys are unique and beautiful. I have felt gratitude to be with them on their path.

I believe in transformation. I believe in hope. I believe that people can recover from amazing challenges.  Just look around at all the stories of inspirational people and heroes – they are everywhere!

So rather than tell my inquirers that yes my job is very depressing and I find it so hard to carry on, I tell them how inspired I am by the people I work with, that I find their stories and experiences fascinating and beautiful.  Even among the most sad and tragic story there is always a piece of light and love.  I leave you with an inspiring poem.

Playing with Three Strings 
– Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
We have seen Yitzhak Perlman
Who walks the stage with braces on both legs,
On two crutches.
He takes his seat, unhinges the clasps of his legs,
Tucking one leg back, extending the other,
Laying down his crutches, placing the violin under his chin.
On one occasion one of his violin strings broke.
The audience grew silent but the violinist did not leave the stage.
He signaled the maestro, and the orchestra began its part.
The violinist played with power and intensity on only three strings.
With three strings, he modulated, changed and
Recomposed the piece in his head
He retuned the strings to get different sounds,
Turned them upward and downward.
The audience screamed delight,
Applauded their appreciation.
Asked later how he had accomplished this feat,
The violinist answered
It is my task to make music with what remains.
A legacy mightier than a concert.
Make music with what remains.
Complete the song left for us to sing,
Transcend the loss,Play it out with heart, soul, and might
With all remaining strength within us.