Internalized other interviews are a powerful Narrative Therapy practice. The therapist invites the client to speak from the imagined perspective of a significant person in their lives, living or dead. Often, this exercise elicits deep emotions and insights into relationships and values. People live inside of us.
At a narrative practice group on the subject of grief, my colleagues and I try a twist on the internalized other interview. None of us in the room are strangers to loss. There have been some very recent family deaths amongst the group. We decide that rather than interviewing a colleague who would connect with and speak as a particular internalized person, we will conduct the session as if she were the personification of Grief itself. My colleague plays the part impeccably. It feels as though she channels our collective experience. We are blown away, moved, and more deeply connected by the dialogue that ensues.
Welcome. Grief seems surprised. I’m not always welcome, she explains, sinking deeper into her chair. Ah, I nod. What is it like, to not feel welcome when you come to call? I ask. Grief answers from the heart. It is hard, she replies. She describes how out of sync she feels. The party guest who nobody knows what to say to. Hurt, alone, avoided, unwanted and cast aside. Trapped, but unable to leave. I understand though, I get it. I’m not easy to be with. Her tone is empathetic, compassionate.
My other colleagues listen intently, silent witnesses to her eloquence.
How would you like it to be? I ask. She explains. I understand that people have busy lives. They don’t always know how I’ll fit in. They try to keep busy when I’m around, to keep me at a distance. She pauses. But I want them to know that when they do connect with me, it may not be as hard as they expect. She tells me that with the heaviness and the sadness of loss, there is joy, and deeper understanding of life and relationships. If only people could see how rich life can be.
What is beautiful about you? She describes her capacity for deep connection. Grief’s face lights up when she talks about witnessing people drawing closer to each other, dropping the masks they wear even for a fleeting moment, being more authentic. I love it when people can sit with me and find that.
I’m intense though. The connection I crave is overwhelming for people. I understand. I’m hard to be with. What’s that like for you? I ask. She talks about how confusing it is. Some people get angry in her presence. Others ignore her or push her away. You do drop by unannounced sometimes. She nods, sheepishly. I know. I wish I didn’t. It is my job. I know I can be a burden.
I am moved by how accepting you are of the difficulties. I am patient, she says, matter-of-factly. And I like my work. I have a purpose. My goal is to help people capture their pain and turn it into something beautiful. I inquire about rituals. I like being part of rituals, she replies. They are important. Rituals bring people together and soften the edges of the pain.
Tell me Grief are you connected with love? A smile lights up her face. Oh yeah. Time stands still for a moment. Our eyes glisten with tears. The depth of it you would not believe.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA