After a long, cold New England winter, I find myself on the lookout for any sign of Spring … a crocus peeking out of the melting snow, a slight haze of color in the trees across the lake, my own spirits lifting. These promptings … encouragements, reminders…return each year to help me make the transition from winter to spring. If I listen, as one listens for the voice off-stage with the line I keep forgetting, I find the guidance I need to survive the last days of winter’s chill.

Promptings have appeared in my work with those who grieve, as well. After listening to their stories and needs, I offer strategies for processing feelings, fears and memories. Such “homework” is a valuable step in healing – these tasks encourage folks to try on new attitudes, return to core values or just keep track of this new life after loss. Sadness and pain continues, but as grief is engaged, relief can be found. When it was time to write my new book “Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss,” I chose to include suggestions to process loss and named them “Promptings of Hope.”

The Land of Loss can be a lonely and terrifying place, but with hope’s assistance, we open ourselves to the resources we need, one step at a time. Promptings of Hope are small steps that lead us through the tangled pathways of Loss toward the light of Hope.

“I invite you to imagine Hope’s light as it weaves its way through your story. Try on some of these ideas and let Hope take root in your heart and shine on your path. With your participation, these practices or exercises will help you cultivate conscious grieving and support your journey toward healing.  With time, you will return to that part of yourself that was lost when your loved one died. Let Hope guide you and comfort you as you renew the connection with yourself and with your loved one, returning you to life.”**

Promptings of Hope can be defined as spiritual practices, experiments or grief work.  These small acts or gestures empower us to grieve consciously. Our active participation in the grief process will then enliven healing memories of our loved ones. For example:

•  If she loved watching the birds, for example, tie a ribbon around the backyard bird feeders.

•  Buy a candle that reminds you of his warmth; set aside a regular time to sit with its light.

•  Collect quotes that remind you of his or her point of view. Gather them in a folder or create a collage; spend time with the wisdom that remains with you.

•  Make a list of memories or stories about others that help you feel hopeful; add to it as they come to mind. Review the list once in a while, and try to define what hope means to you at this time in your life.

•  Write a thank you message to your loved one, naming what you learned about hope in your relationship.

•  Plant flower bulbs that will bloom in Spring as a celebration of hope.

Yes, Spring will come again after the cold of winter. We can count on it. Let the promptings of Spring fill your heart and remind you of their promise of Hope. The love you shared with your loved one is the very source of healing that surrounds you now.


** excerpt from Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss,”  Lisa Irish (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2018)





Lisa Irish

Lisa Irish, MEd, MA, BCC incorporates her experience in chaplaincy, spiritual direction and her own journey to guide the way in the Land of Loss. As former bereavement coordinator for Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Hospital of St Raphael, she ministered to individuals, groups and community organizations. Of her book, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of the Loss, Fr. Richard Rohr says….”the roadmap is wise, but sensitive – grounded in hope – and reminds us to rest in God’s healing love.” Lisa shares her understanding of grief, healing and hope through rich retreat programs and in regular messages found at "Grieving with a Grateful Heart," Abbey Press. "Finding Healing in Times of Grief and Loss" (contributing author) Abbey Press "Grief - the Sacred Art," Skylight Paths Publishing in 2018.

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