Sunday, October 4, 2015

InterPlay, Grief & Gratitude

By Jennifer Denning

“The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them.”
 - Francis Weller

I am grateful for grief. To be more specific, I am grateful for the moments when grief penetrates my heart. It can happen when I’m reading. It can happen when I’m watching my children. It can happen when I’m InterPlaying.

A few years ago I was leading a one hand dance, and I told my partner I was dancing on behalf of my father who has Alzheimer's. When I spoke this I was feeling it more in my head than in my heart. I was caught by surprise when my hand moved and my tears flowed. My love and grief for my father came rushing to the surface. It was a moment of opening.

my mom & dad & me

When playing with the Soulprint Players for the last year I notice the story I am telling many times in different ways is the story of my 11 year old daughter being on the cusp of adolescence. It is an exquisite griefjoy to watch her grow.

At the InterPlay Leader’s gathering this summer my sadness around my father’s continued decline rose up out of the silence and danced with me for much of the retreat.

InterPlay creates space to feel the unfelt things. Why does this matter?

To be fully human requires a willingness to hold the full spectrum of what it means to be alive. That includes dancing with the knowledge that our time here is limited and letting that knowledge soften and open us. That reality is a lot for one body to hold. I imagine that is why so often my grief rises up in the InterPlay community. In InterPlay I know I am free to be witnessed in my grief without anyone being required to fix it. “Being with” is the greatest gift.

We don’t need to manufacture grief. But we can look at creating space in our lives to feel and honor whatever feeling is living in us. Movement, song and story are sweet balms that can allow us to access and honor the gifts of our grief.

Yahia Lababidi said, “To hurry pain is to leave a classroom still in session. To prolong pain is to remain in a vacated classroom and miss the next lesson.” Playing with grief when it comes is a way to stay in the “classroom” for as long as we need to. Sometimes it takes a long time. We can let go of outer expectations of how long any grief moment should last. We can return again and again to what our bodies want to tell us in each moment. We can rest and feel supported in community. We can give thanks.


  1. Beautiful blog Jennifer! "We can return again and again to what our bodies want to tell us in each moment. We can rest and feel supported in community. We can give thanks." Yes, Yes and more yes to being fully human in this wonderful InterPlay community much gratitude to be on this journey with you.

  2. so enjoyed reading this. I'm thinking a lot about InterPlay and grief practices.

    1. There is an interview with Francis Weller on "The Geography of Sorrow" in this month's Sun magazine that is fantastic. He articulates so beautifully the necessity of honoring grief.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you Karimah. I love this forum for sharing my thoughts, and it's great to know when they've been heard and appreciated!