On Tuesday night, I completed the Landmark Forum in Atlanta. It was by far the most transformational course I’ve ever taken in my life and I wanted to share the new possibilities that opened up for me.
Upon registering for the Forum, participants are asked to consider an important area of their life they would like to focus on. My first reaction was “how do I choose just one!?” I was reassured that the focus area would be more of a doorway into the concepts/ assignments and that the overall experience of the course would likely affect many other important areas too. With that, I chose the grief and suffering from this intense year of loss. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to break free from the prison cell of grief for both my family and myself in the wake of Mark’s suicide.
About halfway through the first day and in a very public share-turned-coaching session, I suddenly realized I didn’t actually want that freedom because my story around such freedom would mean that I abandoned my family, that I didn’t care about my brother’s loss, and that I would be seen a lunatic (not a leader for transformation). Not only did I become present to these stories, but I also became present to the stories I had around the grief and suffering in the first place.
I was gently coached into making the distinction between what actually happened and the story/ meaning I made around that reality. Visibly shaking, I found myself admitting to 140 people that I am pretending to be sad about Mark’s loss when, in fact, I’m sad about arguing with the reality of his death (the idea that he shouldn’t be gone and the unjustness of it all). I’m pretending that I’m not the one to bring new possibilities into my family when, in fact, I can be and I choose to be that person.
Becoming present to the distinction between reality and story (and the extent at which we craft meaning around life’s happenings) lifted the prison bars. I realized I was holding myself hostage with the limiting beliefs that there is only suffering in suicide loss and that my family will never be happy again. Without these stories, I’m free to live into a possibility where we can grieve Mark’s death without arguing with the reality of it. In this space of transformed grief is also the possibility of true celebration.
By the end of the Forum, I started to see the many many areas in my life I was avoiding responsibility due to my clever stories and beliefs: with Mark’s death, marriage, parenting, work, personal goals (anywhere I cared to look, really). And, by the end of the Forum, I realized how intensely committed I am to this new possibility of celebrating Mark and to living into new possibilities in general.
I get that this might sound insane. Stories are POWERFUL. People die for their stories. But what if you simply tried on a new possibility without the baggage of the story? What would open up for you?