Finding Liberation in Loss with Lacye Winkelpleck
Can you please share a few details about yourself and your professional journey with our readers?
Like most people in my line of work, I was initiated by my own loss. I have always been drawn towards the healing arts- valuing travel, self-care, healthy relating, yoga, and embodied arts. But in 2018, when I lost my husband- the father of my 3-year-old daughter- my whole world fell apart. The loss was so immense it shook my identity, all my plans for my future, my financial stability, and my poor daughter would grow up never knowing how much her father loved her. In all of the chaos of my grief, I made one brilliant decision which was to move my daughter and I to Bali where I was able to really throw myself into my grief. I took all the yoga classes, got the massages, did the breathwork, and I let myself just cry and cry.
The one thing I found that I needed more than anything was a community of people who knew how to be with grief… but possibly the most shocking thing about this whole experience for me was seeing how ill-adept our Western culture is at holding grief! Our culture values ‘good-vibes only’ and shames us into hiding out when we’re sad so that we don’t bring everyone else down. This unmet need to be witnessed in my grief took me down a path of studying indigenous cultures and how they process, and really help each other process, grief. I began to find myself in community grief rituals following the lineages of people like Malidoma and Sobonfu Some and Martin Prechtel. I began to study breathwork and somatic release techniques and I began to study under people like Megan Devine (author of It’s Ok You’re Not Okay), Peter Levine, and one of my favorite teachers, David Kessler. Eventually, I began to find unexpected pieces of gratitude in my grief and the liberation piece revealed itself. Thus, Loss and Liberation was born.
What exactly is Integrative Grief Support?
Integrative Grief Support is something I came up with to describe an absolutely essential part of grief work: integration. I truly believe that we do not ‘get over’ or ‘move on’ from our grief. We integrate it. It becomes part of who we are. This is my work with people- finding ways to accept the awful loss they have suffered and to integrate it into their lives, learning to carry it and allowing it to change them. Most likely, we will never be who we were before experiencing great loss. Integration helps people find, and hopefully learn ways to love, their new life.
Can you walk me through one of your sessions?
My sessions look different for each individual. I like to tailor the process to each person, meeting them where they are at. I generally start with a lot of curiosity to determine what their most pressing needs are. Are they eating/sleeping/bathing? What does their support system look like? Oftentimes, grieving people don’t even know what they need. Our sessions might start there: determining how to get the support they need, assisting with a script for how to ask for help, or how to define boundaries. It’s important to me that we speak directly about my client’s loss, that we bring the deceased into the room by speaking their name. Often grieving people need a space to speak about their loss without feeling responsible for making others feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes, this work is the only space they have that. Once there is some trust established and the client is open and comfortable moving the emotions in an embodied way, I like to offer different techniques such as breathwork, tapping, nature immersion, guided meditation, anger release, and movement therapies such as yoga, dance, and intuitive movement.
What is your favorite part about your profession?
I used to run an events company called Fancy Parlor. My events were centered around true storytelling. People would tell all kinds of stories- hilarious, exciting, and heart-wrenching- but my very favorite kinds of stories were the ones that were the hardest to tell: the stories of shame. I loved these kinds of stories because there’s this very magical thing that happens when people speak their shame to others. It goes away. Shame is a sort of curse spell. By speaking our shame we actually dis-spell it and it loses its power over us.
Community is potent like that. It was absolutely incredible to see both the storyteller and the listener relate, and in this relating, the shame was normalized and healed. As a grief worker- this is still my favorite part of my work. People hold so much shame in their grief: “Am I doing this wrong? Have I been grieving too long? I need to pretend I’m fine so I don’t bring everyone around me down.” Because of this shame, we stay silent and remain in this ostracized feeling of being unacceptable and wrong. It gives me immense fulfillment when I’m able to validate and normalize someone’s grief. Watching that shame leave the room is what I’m all about.
What would, in your opinion, be the most important advice you could give to someone struggling with grief?
Cry. Stay home from work. Take care of yourself by not pretending to be ok when you’re not. Find people you can be real with. These people, the ones that stick around, will save you.
To learn more about Lacye and her work, you can visit lossandliberation.com