Re-imagining Loss part 2

Expansion beyond 5
I wonder if there are stages/experiences that follow Denial, Bartering, Anger, Depression and Acceptance that could be added to the stages of dealing with death.

That may provide a better frame to the slim paradox of grief and loss? Maybe a healthier way to manage the tumultuous feelings that accompany loss?

Yes go through the 5 but what about
Celebration
Rest and
eventually finding Peace?

Allowing space for a quiet putting down of all those years of turmoil, self-questioning, doubt, pain and other uncomfortable emotions and thoughts.

Expulsion
Nine Night as a Caribbean/African tradition of helping to move the deceased on. Nine Night allows mourners time to remember, tell stories, curse, swear, holler, cry, sing, dance, play cards, pour libation and offer to anyone who has ears to listen our best, worst and most treasured memories of the them that has gone on.

Hammer Toss
My favourite story of my mum that has left an indelible imprint on my memory is the story of the hammer. Caribbean’s know of pick up and throw as a rule to instruct and discipline children. Especially the ‘fleet of foot’ child, which I was fortunately. Well. When we meet allow me to share that indelible memory…

Reflect
In celebration we hold up a mirror to them (The deceased). Not only do we see them but we also see the time we had with them and ourselves. It’s a funny thing because these memories contain them and us. By remembering, we invite in a retelling of a time before, with them in it, alive, vibrant. Unforgettable. Until even those memories fade and change over time.

Remember Blockbusters
If anyone knew my friend Jamui Adebiyi you would know of his acting ability and of his harsh criticism of B rate movies. Imagine Blockbusters, the now defunct movie loaning business chain, at Clapham Junction 1999. Myself, Mobolagi and Ade negotiating between us movie choices, this was long before Sainsbury’s rolled in. I ventured that we should watch a said B rate movie and his reaction was classic Ade. He jumped up and down and said that that movie is crap, it’s crap, it’s crap, timing his jumps with each brief statement. I was about to say Ade is…

And now I remember, he died 8 years ago. That memory lives on as does he, in a time framed by a Clapham junction with a Blockbusters in it, in a very different London.

A deep dive reflection

Revel
Celebrate them for the memory they have left us with. In celebrating our time with them, it can allow the sadness to change to something lighter.

Transformation is about an enlightening experience. Allow for it. Make time to celebrate them for all that they were. Who they had been for you. The singular narrative is for those who may have positive affable memories of the person or people that has/have died.

To complicate the narrative, a challenged earlier relationship with the deceased may be harder to muster the mental energy to celebrate who they were. Perhaps, here one can choose to thank them for the lessons learned or let go of the discomforting memories.

Forever…

Tranquil
By arriving at a piece of peace and finally then rest, death can be allowed out too.

Like a bee trapped in a hot glass house.
Once freed – buzzing away back to it’s hive.
The frenzy at seeking an out
Causes the din of Bee head butting
n buzzing to reverberate in ones
Head minutes after the bee let fly.

So too this and death.

Unless released reverently it (death) remains abuzz. Pass through all eight stages for as long as they are needed. Then release and accept/receive the peace willingly.

Restitution
Once a person arrives at the point of Rest the energy used to move through the other 7 stages of grief may have waned. One may want to sleep for a while. There are moments where I flip back to the point of being angry with death, sometimes.

It is possible that the only act left is to simply be still. The need to stop running and avoiding the pain is given chance to subside. There is little left to do. The rest point could represent the end of the grief journey. Fully completing the path as it winds down towards the sea could take months or years. Travel well. Remember to let go. They, You, We deserve it

1 Denial
2 Bargaining
3 Anger
4 Depression
5 Acceptance
6 Celebrate
7 Peace
8 Rest

Resources
Two Guys on your Head Memory-Imagination and Happiness
Philosophy Bites – Death
Griefcast with Meshel Laurie

Images
https://unsplash.com/@whoislimos In despair, but not lost. I try to remind myself, trials may come yet hope lies at dawn Chicago Dawn

https://unsplash.com/@thoughtcatalog/portfolio

Serendipity: Day 1 The Course

The Black Men’s Introduction to Group Therapy Course began on the 13th of November and was a Kings and Queen making experience with my co-counsellor Sheila Samuels. I borrow the term from Ron Brown High School and Dope Black Dad’s Podcast’s chief presenter Marvyn Harrison who addressed me recently as King.

The moment stood out, fresh like beads of sweat dotting a brow furrowed in deep concentration. Mentally I did a double take and thought…
Who is he speaking to?
Me?
Really?
King?
Oh I get it.
Those are large shoes to fill.
I’m ready to put that mantle on.

Now.

Collaborative Communication
5 men attended the group and told their stories of why they saw a need for the group. The men held out their independent requests for the room to see feel and identify with. There is a unity to be had in sharing hopes with a room who know what you are saying because they, I, we, have said similar things too.

The Philosophical meets the Practical

Safety
Groups are always nervous in the beginning. Leaders/Facilitators are too! With a new venue.
New people to get to know.
A new course.
Not knowing met with new, then came upon nuanced and introduced those who attended to what has the potential for being made to exist in the now.
For this group it was a Black safe space. Rare. A space curated, created and secured for men of the African Diaspora to meet and talk and discuss and experience warmth from a forgotten Sun. The aim – to discuss Black Mental Health with other Black Men with 2 highly skilled counsellors.

Knowing
A good therapy group often operates well with 2 counsellors steering the conversation. Having worked with Sheila at the prison a few years ago I knew she would be a great co-facilitator for this group. Knowledgeable, flexible and able to support the group engage with the sensitive topic of Black Mental Health.

Diversity
The group of 5 men with differing ages, professions, from a range of different London Boroughs, from a collection of countries of origin all came with a singular focus: To open the sometimes locked box and speak about mental health, as vulnerable, sensitive, engaged, intelligent, responsible, aware, concerned advocates and as Black men.

Sensate
There was laughter, there was a felt sense of wanting to support and be simply acknowledged as friend, brother, seeker, father, colleague like in the classic Ralph Ellis book Invisible Man being seen and understood is a priceless gift.

I could just about keep my hands from clapping all the time or staying on my seat from sheer giddy exuberance: This Was Actually Happening! Finally!

It did, and there are more to follow, on the 20th 27th November 4th, 11th 18th December.

One attendee asked if there are plans for the group to continue past the 6 weeks… Both me and Sheila looked at each other and answered “Well that all depends…”

Who Knows by Ram Dass
Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to this tale…

*Cover Image from This Book Could Help

Street Art - Poetry

Falling

It’s rare for me to hear something that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me fall as if through space wondering what wonderment is this? Prepare yourselves, this is another musically inspired post. Join me as I revel…

Knocked Out
Montara by Bobby Hutcherson was like that, when I first heard the track back in the early 90’s visiting my sister in Stoke Newington listening to Jazz FM. I thought about the magic of music. Bobby transported me to a new dynamic of experiencing the world. His playing of the vibes opened a portal to a different time, place and sensibility about music.

I had a similar experience on hearing FTB by Robert Glasper in 2008, and then Gretchen Parlato’s Weak in 2015. Then came Warren Wolf’s Knocks Me Off My Feet released in 2016, but heard in 2019. I know this song. It has belonged to Stevie Wonder for years. What Warren is able to do is make the song his. Yes he is a talented jazz percussionist. Yes he plays the vibraphone like a pianist with all the musical dexterity and complexity that has left me spell bound but the *laterality of his thinking and then playing of this version of Knocks Me – is mesmerising.

Walking into Tower records in the late 90’s and hearing Bobbi Humphrey’s Satin Doll Album. Being assuaged into another late night musical crawl was the ultimate falling experience. I had never heard a *flautist do what Bobbi did on this album. I bought it without hesitation and have savoured her playing ever since. With the Mizell Brothers doing what they did best, producing fresh nuanced music to new audiences.

Visibility
But his rendition of Knocks Me Off My Feet has had me singing out loud (in the comfort of solitude in the car and when no one is at home. I was not gifted with a great singing voice).

Warren’s version – takes you into the joy of falling, and falling, and falling in love. Within that happy play of love. It is a joy to behold. Like being held in the rapture of someone else’s perfection. Spellbinding. His art is to make a song his and yet remain recognisable. It is the magic of Warren’s vision and of the accompanying musicians who allow the play of the vibraphone to musically enthrall and take you to the zenith of falling or being knocked off your feet.

Re-Done
Montara by Bobby Hutcherson is universally held as a great, no, a fantastic piece of jazz music. It broke records and has been highly sought after. The Roots did a great rendition of Montara on the New Groove Album with the lyric Do What You Want, Do What You Like, Do What You Feel/Do What you Need. I loved this version for as long as I can remember with those late night conversations in my mid 20’s, late night drives, late night studies it was the only version of the classic I could readily access.

Huff and Puff
Then along came Warren Wolf. Blowing everything even the original away, with his version of Montara. Why? Bobby made it his! It is his. The Roots made it theirs. It was theirs. Wolf reinvented Mandala and brought it full force into the 21st century. It’s like what Christian Scott did for Isadora, Robert Glasper has done with the piano and with his experiment experiences, Gretchen Parlato reworked SWV’s Weak up to and what Warren has done with this age old classic.

CTA
Compare contrast congratulate and then comment below. There are few that have been able to do re evolution better. Warren Wolf is someone to look out for.

The poem at the end of I Stand Alone by Robert Glasper is worthy of repeating often. Primarily because the poet speaks about there being multiple changes with each re-interpretation, re-evolving not just copying mindlessly. Suggesting that each go round takes us – musician and listener – to a different newer higher level.

And He Laughed.

Black laughter. Black Love.

There are times when I am amazed by the generosity of spirit of the people I meet in prison. They may only be dimly aware. For this man I would like to share this piece of writing with him. An action of reciprocity. Effective Altruism? Maybe…

Bad Day
I was having a shitty day. Walking with a walking stick in prison is a cumbersome and slow experience. The walking stick has me feeling vulnerable and very out there on my own. It’s a constant worry that at any moment something is going to go down and I’m going to be jumped beaten and my keys snatched off of my chain.

It has never happened to me.

(Yes, staff walk around with keys attached to a belt.) Uniformed Staff and civilian staff walk with aware that they carry a large responsibility along with those keys – a symbol of power.

Questioning
The opposite is often what I encounter. I generally do not feel powerful. My visible vulnerability brings from many I meet, including officers and often young and mature black men, the nod, or the question of
“Are you alright?” Or
“You cool?”
“What’s happened?”
“You good?”
“Take it easy, yeah?”

Fade
Here I am seen and my daily struggle is met by others compassion, seeing myself as the injured and frail one. I find myself at times wanting to be invisible. But these calls are a gentle reminder that humanity lives here. These moments are of genuine sensitivity being shown from men who are doing hard time, some serving 18-30 years. I have accountability and a responsibility to uphold, mine and theirs.

Between
On this day I passed from one wing to another. There are a number of wings/house blocks, housing between 100-150 men. Every house block has it’s own distinct vibe and concentration of prisoners: Vulnerable prisoners, lifers, remand and re-categorised prisoners. These men are due for parole or to be sent to other prisons for more open conditions. The prison has a total capacity servicing over 1000 men. Me negotiating the gates, doors and stairs takes longer as I manage the cane, the keys, assessment charts, writing paper to note take and my diary. An unholy slow moving ungainly mess.

Rutland Water Normanton Church: Slow Moving

Check-in
I am to meet with a client who attends the bereavement group. (Thanks for the reminder I will offer a write up about this group soon.) I need to see him as he left the group early on this week and I want to make sure that he is okay.

Take
We meet on his house block and I make my way into one of the offices that has a desk and 2 chairs on his wing.

I offer,
“I wanted to come and see you as I wanted to find out how you are after Tuesdays meeting?”
He says “Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling good you know? Sometimes this place takes the piss!”

I nod showing that I understand.

He continues “I asked for something that’s important to me for my religion and it’s not on the canteen sheet and I can’t get it!
“It’s frustrating me.
“I’m usually okay with it here.
“But this thing.
“I’ve been patiently waiting for 3 months and I couldn’t wait any longer. “I’ve done it their way for a long time and nothing ain’t happening for me. “I’m not just going for mine and leaving everybody else you know?
“This is about me and for others like me.”

Release
He shares his disappointments and numerous experiences of being let down and similar disagreements about the prison. Like, losing weight, standing forward and supporting others, confronting officers and attending to his overall fitness, wearing clothes he has had to keep care of for years because he can’t trust that things sent in will safely arrive.

Prism
He says something like jail being more like a mental health institution in patois and we both laugh. Initially tentatively. Then gleefully. Recognising ourselves in a prison situation as Black men. One choosing to be there with the other, another doing his best to find peace within his situation in prison.

Re-set
The laugh of this black man was like the baring of a soul with a comrade at arms, a fellow road weary traveller, a baller. His laugh invited me to view both his and my plight with compassion. This black mans laugh somehow seemed to restore me and also him. We sat and laughed in a prison, about prison and the folly of the circumstances we both found ourselves in. It was Capoeira meeting Jazz, Gum Boot Dance to Blues, Hip Hop bopping slow with Reggae, Salsa and Calypso rejoicing. It was natural and affirming that even here -prison – humanity could be found.

Re-Mix
The wonderful ability to take something that is both internal and external put a spin on it and make it both his and mine. The experience of the infinite in a few short moments of laughter. How deliciously wonderful, amazing and so uniquely surprising. I left the prison a little lighter that day, usually a little guilt escapes with me.

Not on this day!

There was no space for it.

Only smiles and laughter.

Resources
The Nod Do Rag
Code Switch School Daze and Gum Boot Dance
2 guys on your head Laughter/Jokes 
Making Sense Mind, Space, Motion

CTA
Comments welcome and appreciated. I am looking to engage in conversation re. Black Laughter. Black Love and the other blogs written. Thank you for reading.

Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash

Beautiful Purpose

Ikigai – Purpose of Being

Ikigai

Is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from:
iki, meaning life, and
kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.
From what is.techtarget.com

Tools
Wanting to heal and providing a number of tools, resources and ideas that support others to heal too I believe is my path, my passion and my pastime. A therapist no longer. I am doing something more. It’s surprising this level of experience because I had no idea that I would arrive at a point like Jonathon Livingstone Seagull: Above the clouds, looking for others to soar up here too.

Psychotherapy as Art
I was supposed to be an artist or an architect, at the very least an Interior Designer. But life did what life does best – took me where it needed me to go. From London to Peterborough, Leicester, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North London, South London. Hamilton Ontario?

Walk and Talk Therapy, Autumn creeps in the mist
Walking and Talking in a London Park. Psychotherapy meets Artistry

Mr Ben
A host of jobs I have played an active role in, that has included; a McDonalds employee, a night packer at Walkers Crisps Leicester, working in a nightclub as a bar person – University experience Leicester, packer and sorter for freeman’s catalogs Peterborough, office mover and delivery person for English Heritage and Manpower staff agency – London, a barista and store assistant manager at Seattle Coffee company, a youth worker/manager for the place in Woolwich.

Speeding Up
It was here as a youth worker, that life began to accelerate and I began to notice the power of influence within conversations I was having with young people and what the effect of being supported could do.

I continued supporting young people at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wandsworth which lead me to being a school sports co-ordinator at Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich, I completed an introductory course to counselling at Morley College in this time.

Becoming a learning mentor at a boys school Salesian College, a few years later, helped to solidify what I had learned -Talking Helps! Then I completed a Masters in Counselling from University of Greenwich.

Paint
A placement at a Drs surgery in Camberwell and a placement at a prison lead me to working with people in forensic settings. I have written before about becoming an artist that works with the human canvas of life. The reality is artistry has led on to something more.

Labelled Healer
It is further along this path of discovery that I am headed, I notice points of interest and signs that the journey is about to quicken and change once more. Magi, healer, shaman, doctor, it seems like the next potential door through which I am to pass.

A man in prison approached me and asked
“What do you do, then?”
I replied “I am a counsellor.”
He said “You look more like a doctor.”
I laughed and offered “Is that’s a good thing?”
He said “It could be, I need a doctor.”
“Ah” I said…

Sidelined
The idea I am learning to accept is that interpretation of an idea, of a person’s life choices can be vast. So much can be included or completely left out.

Those who are labelled unhinged or mad are often marginalised. The fact that some people can see things that may not appear in our version of reality earns them a severe and enduring mental health label. Perhaps the Magi, Healer, Suffi, Shaman would be more appreciative. Able to show more understanding towards the ‘psychotic’ the ‘schizophrenic’ or the personality disordered. Perhaps there is more to be perceived of our reality.

6 Weeks: Get Ready for 2020

More
My Ikigai is wanting to support the many to be well whatever that may mean. These blogs and links, tweets, linkedIn posts, Instagram shares, Pinterest pictures, Facebook posts are to support the many heal. My 6 week course for Black Man is soon to begin at the Wellness Hub in Lee Lewisham England. A 6 week online course for the same target group is currently in production too.  

It’s Time

Resources
2 Black Guys with Good Credit Don’t Hate, Negotiate
Oprah Winfrey and Malcolm Gladwell Super Soul Sunday
The Dope Black Podcast
Code Switch Our Homeland Raising Kings
The Nod Fearing the Black Body

Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

On 13th of November 2019 a colleague and I will begin a group therapy experience for Black Men. The group will be run as an introduction to therapy and group psychotherapeutic support.

Inspire Them
The idea came from a former client who is featured in a testimonial. He was a client who in the span of 2 short seasons of work transformed his outlook on life. He mentioned the idea last year (2018). An introduction to therapy for Black Men or Men of the African Diaspora crystallized. In April 2019 when I went to The Man Talk in Brixton, I was moved to begin something that men who perceive of talking therapy as not for them – could be introduced to the idea of therapeutic support.

Sharing Vulnerability
At The Man Talk, seeing a group of men talking about issues they have lived through including: suicide, prison, depression, bereavement, life plans overturned and offering support to others, was amazing. The event brought the need for specialised low cost support to me in an impactful way. So impactful that I wanted to start something too.

Authority
Working with case discussion groups and process groups at Universities across London beginning at University of Greenwich (Sept 2015), presenting at UEL to students on their psychology programmes I paid attention to the amazing power of group work.

Unkown Knowns
I use the word power with intention as I feel there is an unknown element that affects working with groups. The bereavement group I currently support at one of the prisons I work at in Kent, is a perfect example of the wonder and amazing effect group work has on individuals and the group overall.
The group becomes it’s own entity. Factors from outside the group space interact with members and push and pull what is shared in directions that are unknowable.

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

Wellness
Reading the work of Irvin Yalom and his experiences of group work especially in Loves Executioner offer the reader a clear understanding of what group therapy does.

Call To Act
If interested to know more about the group please contact either myself or Sheila Samuels who will be co-counselling the space with me. The group begins on the 13th of November 2019 at the Wellness Hub, 7 Burnt Ash Hill London. SE12 0AA

Breaking the Line

Quick Dip

And stop. First listen to the podcast (The Stoop) and then read on.

Twinned

Someone who reads my blogs said to me that they enjoy reading my words as their mind works similarly. A thought and then digression, never knowing if and when the return may arrive. Travelling in too many to count directions that could be interconnected.

Possibly…

Spores Spread

My posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and my counselling page on Facebook break a few lines. The most notable is that posting a story featuring a woman or man from the African Diaspora including an image of that person, does that thing of breaking the line. Here in the West seeing, hearing, being aware of the thinking of the European is common. In fact it is everywhere! Unquestioned and unsanctioned. 

Problematic?

Possibly.

Mechanism of Oppression

The image, the stories, the experiences are unapologetic and veer in to territory that is uncomfortable, uplifting, informative. Angie’s line from a talk held recently “it is not our job to inform and educate White people about racism.” We Africans did not put in place the structurally oppressive systems that provide stability for one group of people and that leaves everyone else not from that group destabilized and struggling in Westernized societies. It is not our job to deconstruct and do the work.

Again

Share

Breaking the line is an invitation to note what happens when an image of a person of colour is brought before your/ our/ my minds eye. Do thoughts that surprise and dismay also follow? But I am not prejudiced/racist I have so and so person in my life is a common answer and offering. Suggesting leniency and clemency for all wrongs. Malcolm Gladwell shares his insight in this podcast stating that the liberal is possibly the worst offender.

An Education

Books like ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ and follow up podcasts About Race, books such as ‘The Good Immigrant’ and ‘The Colour of Madness’ invite readers/listeners to immerse themselves into another’s view of life.

In Comparison

I have invited those that I work with to invest time in reading these works. As Marlon James said at an event in March ‘if a people can go through 400 years of dehumanising pain, suffering through 3 books exploring racism’s affects may be uncomfortable, but cannot compare to a race’s continued victimisation and vilification at the hands of systemic oppression of difference. Being othered by race, culture, religion or where ones parents originate is a factor in my life and for millions of others.

Marching

Remaining with the idea of being human first is difficult when other barbs are thrown. If Breaking the line happens to be another move to represent all experiences – the work, the journey is a step closer, but not yet done.

Possibly…