The Transformative Power of Grieving: Finding Healing Through Storytelling and Presence in the Bardo’s

Preamble: Confessions

I lost my papa recently. And while I never sometimes my father, it was Papa who failed in presence, support, and generosity. Merten Wolfe changed his name to Martin Rankin upon immigrating from a postwar Germany, when America was pregnant with late stage capitalism and MTV still played music videos. We come from a clan of Romani who welcome change and dance along the teetering edge of escape and presence. We’re prone to flight, never fight, sometimes freeze. But we love to flee. And flee we did, across America, across that long stretch of middle west, carpeted in grassy crags, r plight up to those purple mountains you hear about in songs. We rode on to California for a time, where Martin wrote poetry and picked up off jobs while Oma read Tarot and mom worked as a gardener.

We packed up and fled to Texas when California grew too tight, as the entire world set sight on unclaimed plots and squeezed tenants and homeowners out in gentrified exhume ranch. We slipped into the Great Lakes and then settled into the Texas Hill-country where I was born.

All this to give you a taste of Merten’s backstory in America. I, working on a saga of his experiences in Germany, Europe and eventual arrival in America that details this time and the experience of late immigration and “gypsy” culture.

Papa died last week and I haven’t figured out how to talk about it so this is the best I can do right now.

Grief is a natural and necessary process that we all go through at some point in our lives. It is a complex emotional response to loss, and it can be one of the most challenging experiences that we face as human beings. The pain of losing a loved one can be overwhelming, and it can feel as though we will never be able to move on. However, there is a transformative power to grief that is often overlooked. Through storytelling and being present with our emotions, we can find healing and grow in ways that we never thought possible.

Storytelling as a Means of Coping with Loss

One of the most effective ways to cope with grief is through storytelling. Telling stories about our loved ones allows us to keep their memory alive and share their legacy with others. It also helps us to process our emotions and make sense of what has happened. By telling stories, we can find comfort in the memories we shared with our loved ones, and we can find meaning in their life and death.

In addition to telling our own stories, it can also be helpful to listen to the stories of others who have experienced similar losses. This can help us to feel less alone in our grief and can offer us new perspectives and insights into our own experience.

Being Present with Our Emotions

Another important aspect of grieving is being present with our emotions. It can be tempting to try to push away our feelings of sadness, anger, or despair, but this can only prolong our suffering. Instead, we need to allow ourselves to feel our emotions fully and without judgment. This means being present with our feelings, even when they are uncomfortable or painful.

Being present with our emotions can also involve finding ways to express them. This can include writing in a journal, creating art, or engaging in other forms of creative expression. By finding ways to express our emotions, we can release them in a healthy way and find a sense of release and relief.

So I’m going to be real clever here when I say this… not. We must embrace The Transformative Power of Grieving

While grief can be one of the most difficult experiences we face, it also has the potential to be one of the most transformative. Through storytelling and being present with our emotions, we can find healing and grow in ways that we never thought possible. We can develop a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others who are experiencing loss, and we can learn to live more fully in the present moment.

Grief is not something that we ever truly “get over,” but it is something that we can learn to live with. By embracing the transformative power of grieving, we can honor our loved ones and find meaning in our own lives.

Mid-90’s Me with Papa

I have spent many years studying grief and helping others navigate the complex emotions that come with loss. However, recently I have been reflecting on my own experiences with healing and the transformative power of grief. In particular, I have been considering the role that conversations with the person I lost can play in my healing process.

While the person may no longer be physically present, I have found that continuing to have conversations with them in my mind can be a source of comfort and healing. Whether it is expressing my love, asking for guidance, or simply sharing my thoughts and feelings, these conversations allow me to maintain a connection with my loved one and feel their presence in my life.

I have also found solace in the writings of poets and writers who have explored the themes of loss and grief. Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods” speaks to the transformative power of grief, while Joan Didion’s memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking” offers a deeply personal and honest account of her own experience with loss. Other powerful works include C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed,” and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “On Death and Dying.”

In addition to these literary works, there are also many helpful books by psychologists, clinicians, and Buddhist and Eastern philosophers that offer guidance on navigating the grieving process. “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche offers a Buddhist perspective on death and dying, while “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion offers a deeply personal and honest account of her own experience with loss. Other helpful books include “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John W. James and Russell Friedman, and “Healing After Loss” by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

In conclusion, the transformative power of grieving lies in our ability to connect with our emotions, tell our stories, and find meaning in our experiences. By continuing conversations with the person we lost and seeking guidance from literature and philosophy, we can find comfort, healing, and a renewed sense of purpose in our lives.

Here are some links to further reading suggestions:

And here is the poem “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver:

Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars

of light, are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,

the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders

of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is

nameless now. Every year everything I have ever learned

in my lifetime leads back to this: the trees and the blackwater pond.

This morning the delicate hoarfrost measuring every leaf,

blade of grass, and fallen twig glows like translucent silk

draped over crystal bowls of freshly fallen fruit.

The day is coming when there will be no one left who remembers

the way the trees once stood, the way the light shone among the boughs,

and the night fell upon the leaves, gentle as peace itself.

Until that day, I will keep telling myself that I am loved, that I am needed,

that I am here for a reason, and that reason is to love,

to be loved, and to never forget the beauty and wonder of this world.

As a wandering Bumi, I feel the urge to wax on about anicca (impermanence), but I will spare you 😉 So take a Buddhist parable that speaks to the process of grieving and finding peace in the face of loss:

Once, a woman came to the Buddha in tears, carrying her dead child in her arms. She begged the Buddha to bring her child back to life, but the Buddha gently replied, “I will bring your child back to life if you can find me one thing that has never known loss or sorrow.”

The woman searched and searched, but she could not find anything that had never experienced loss or sorrow. Finally, she returned to the Buddha and said, “I cannot find anything that has never known loss or sorrow.”

The Buddha then said to her, “In this world, everything is impermanent. Everything that arises must pass away. If we cling to things and people, we will only experience suffering when they inevitably change or leave us. But if we learn to accept the impermanence of life and find peace within ourselves, we can find freedom from suffering.”

The woman listened to the Buddha’s words and found comfort in them. She was still sad for her child, but she no longer clung to the hope that the child could be brought back to life. She learned to accept the impermanence of life and to find peace in the midst of her grief.

This parable speaks to the Buddhist concept of impermanence (anicca) and the importance of finding peace in the face of loss and change. By recognizing the impermanence of all things and learning to let go of our attachments, we can find freedom from suffering and cultivate inner peace.

There are a number of video games that can provide a helpful outlet for those who are grieving. Here are a few options, along with links to their pages on Steam:

  1. “That Dragon, Cancer” – This game was created by a couple who lost their young son to cancer, and it is a deeply emotional exploration of their experiences. It is available on Steam here:
  2. “Graveyard Keeper” – While not explicitly about grief, this game has players managing a graveyard and performing tasks like burying bodies and comforting mourners. It can be a cathartic experience for those who are grieving. It is available on Steam here:
  3. “The Stillness of the Wind” – This game has players taking on the role of an elderly woman living on a farm, and it explores themes of aging, loss, and loneliness. It is available on Steam here:
  4. “Oxenfree” – This game is a supernatural thriller that explores themes of loss, grief, and guilt. It is available on Steam here:
  5. “A Night in the Woods” – This game follows the story of a young college dropout who returns to her hometown and explores themes of depression, loss, and change. It is available on Steam here:

Please note that while video games can be a helpful outlet for some, they may not be appropriate for everyone who is grieving. It’s important to seek out a variety of coping strategies and to find what works best for you.

Presently… I’m playing my way through Journey

“Journey” is another video game that can be helpful for those who are grieving. It is a beautiful and meditative game that encourages players to explore a vast and mysterious world. It does not have a traditional narrative, but instead focuses on the emotional journey of the player’s character.

Throughout the game, players encounter other players online, but they cannot communicate through traditional means like text or voice chat. Instead, they communicate through musical tones and gestures, creating a unique and meaningful form of connection.

“Journey” can be a powerful and cathartic experience for those who are grieving, as it encourages exploration, reflection, and emotional connection. It is available on Steam here:



One response to “The Transformative Power of Grieving: Finding Healing Through Storytelling and Presence in the Bardo’s”

  1. marieminnich Avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I have lost people very near and dear to me; and experienced profound grief. Your ruminations are helpful, and beautiful.🤍


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