The season of Advent draws us into the mystery of what it means to be fully present in the midst of the heartache, turmoil, beauty, and hope of our world. But so many of us shy away from fully welcoming that mystery into our lives. In an effort to escape pain and prevent further loss, we close ourselves to grief and, in turn, wall ourselves off to the in-breaking of unexpected moments of beauty.

In this video from our 2018 Symposia: An Intersection of Conversation & Innovation, therapist Jeffrey Batstone (MA in Counseling Psychology, ‘10) presents “Opening to Grief Through Self-Compassion”—a rallying cry to reexamine our relationship with grief through a posture of self-compassion. Jeffrey argues that self-compassion is a key factor in the difference between the stagnance of depression and the dynamic movement of grief. If our fundamental posture is toward an avoidance of grief, then it will be harder to be compassionate toward ourselves in the midst of it; we may instead embody those cultural messages that say we need to “get over it” and “move on.”

“When we avoid grief, we close down vital experiences necessary for a rooted life.”

“In self-kindness, we have a willingness to move towards pain in connection, mindfulness, and common humanity. Compassion literally means to suffer. When we allow ourselves to suffer the pain of loss in relationship, we move away from depression. This is what my research is showing,” says Jeffrey. “Allowing grief to move through us, allowing ourselves to experience the pain of loss, that requires we posture ourselves in relationship mindfully, offering ourselves kindness rather than judgement, opening ourselves to relationship rather than isolation, and mindfully acknowledging the pain we are in without exaggeration or minimization. These are the factors that allow grief to flow through us.”

This work has grown out of Jeffrey’s doctoral research and dissertation, years of therapeutic experience, and his own personal experience. The essential, healing movement of grief comes up again and again in the categories we explore at The Seattle School, and we are so grateful to keep learning from alumni like Jeffrey, who are sharing creative, relational, embodied approaches to grief that our world so desperately needs.

“Grief will come to us, welcome or not. When we posture ourselves against it, we close off to life-giving arteries. When we allow grief to have its way with us, it will open us to the core of who we are, and our cries will be those of love for who and what we’ve lost.”