Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_6A while back I was asked to put down on paper what I had spoken about at one of our Advanced Volunteer Family Guide training sessions.  This has been hard for me as I usually just say things from the heart and find it difficult to remember the details of the conversation, but I tried.  A few volunteers had been asked to attend a weekend of advanced training for family guides and at the end of every session we are asked to check out….just say a few words about how we feel and what we got out of the session.  For those of you who have never been to a training session or don’t really know what the VFG program is about,  I will tell you that it is basically about learning the true art of listening and allowing others to come to terms with whatever stage they may be at on their grief journey.  It is about making them feel safe in one of their most vulnerable agonizing times in their lives.  It is not easy work. By the end of each day of training we are all emotionally and mentally exhausted.  I have been a Volunteer Family Guide now for many years and I still find it to be exhausting work.  This day was no different from many others I had experienced. You hear the endless stories of heart break and loss and it inevitably brings all of the emotions of your own loss to the surface where it is raw and messy.   But we know that it is in these messy places that are so hard to go to that we find the greatest of inspirations or epiphanies.

It was there in that workshop at the end of the day that I found my peace; my spiritual awakening, I guess.  I was waiting for my turn, listening to all the others, faces that I have come to know and love over the years and looking at some new ones that I feel will always be linked to me in some way by this common thread of loss.  It was then, when I was just about to offer my usual ‘I am exhausted but in a good way’ spiel that I realized I had much more to say.

When my turn finally came I started by saying that I was definitely exhausted but that I had also had a revelation.  Every year that I have been part of Threads of Life I look on these chances we have to get together with these amazing people – these volunteers, my friends, the people who know the real me better than anyone, including my family – with great anxiety and great expectation. These people have seen me at my worst and still stand by me with conviction and dedication and I am so very blessed to have them in my life, each and every one of them.  I wanted to let them know this.

It went something like this:

Early on in my healing journey, not too long after I had lost my son and shortly thereafter my mother, I started going to see a counselor.  She helped me to organize my thoughts and prioritize things in my life. She also helped me realize in her own unique way that I was probably one of the most giving people she had ever known, she said.  That I want to make everything right for everyone in my world.  That I will give and give until there is nothing left of me.  Now this hit me because my mom had actually told me the same thing just before she passed away from breast cancer.  She had called every one of her children in to have “the talk” with her and my talk was about giving.  She made me promise that I would take care of myself first.  When I realized the counselor was so very right, we talked about looking at me as a glass of water and when I give of my time, love and energy I am pouring water out of the glass.  “At some point if you don’t find someone or something to fill your glass, you will not be able to continue to give these things that are so important to you,” she said.

This journey of loss and all the other things that have happened to me over the years; this journey of life in general with all its ups and downs and highs and lows is a struggle and we have to work hard to maintain a balance – some type of peaceful and healthy existence.  When I look around at you I have found that thing which fills my cup. You brave and fragile and genuinely compassionate people and this organization are what fill my cup.  You renew my strength and energize my body and I am forever grateful for having found Threads of Life.  I will always be grateful for all the warmth and understanding that are such an integral part of the backbone of this organization.  It is an honor and a privilege to be surrounded by such amazing people.  People who are so inspirational and so very brave.  People who openly share the worst parts of their lives in the hope that it will help others.  YOU fill my cup!  My cup runneth over and I just want to say thank you.

Like our leader always says, “Never underestimate the power of people who are passionate about making a difference!”  We have and we will continue to make a difference!

Tami Helgeson
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