Lillith Grey is a seasoned burlesque and fetish performer, musician, and emcee, and can frequently be found performing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, and is currently living in Miami as she completes her doctoral internship in Psychology. She has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level, and has also worked as a psychotherapist, an ASL interpreter and interpreter trainer, and social justice advocate. She travels extensively, teaching classes and workshops on a variety of subjects including relationships, communication, trauma, body image, sexuality and gender, and diversity issues. Add her on Facebook, or visit her at www.LillithGrey.com for more information.
The recent passing of burlesque legend Dixie Evans has reignited feelings of loss and grief in the burlesque community. Not only does her death impact us, it also reminds us of our previous losses: Kitty Twist, Sparkly Devil, Foxy Goat, Patsy Grind, and so many more. These ladies brought so much light and laughter into our worlds, each in their own special way, and often brightened the worlds of people they never even met. Their absence is felt not only by those who knew and loved them personally, but also those who found their own lives changed because of these incredible women.
Time, in fact, does not heal all wounds. Grief is a wound that never heals. We learn to deal with it, we figure out how to find new meaning, and we continue building our lives, but the empty space never goes away. That can be a frightening idea for someone in the grip of intense sorrow, but it can also be comforting, because sometimes moving on feels like betrayal. Very often, people become impatient when a certain amount of time has passed and someone is still struggling with the loss. That sort of external pressure to “hurry up and get over it” can end up silencing the griever, making the process much more difficult. The purpose of processing grief is not to eliminate it; the purpose is to integrate the loss into your life. The people you’ve loved and lost will stay a part of your story forever. You will write new chapters, and the loss will become part of chapters past, but the story is still your truth and will remain written on your heart.
We are a creative community, and our grief and celebration must be creative as well. We are not stoic, we are not invisible, we are not timid. We do not hide our scars – we cover them in glitter and learn to love them. We show them to people, proudly, and we tell our personal story with every inch of skin we display. We must not hide our grief, or silence others’ grief. We must dance and shout and cry and laugh and lift these ladies high, sending their radiance into the starry skies. We must carry on their message, and we must always remember.
When we lost Patsy Grind in my home community, a remembrance Facebook group was created where people still share memories and photos. On a difficult, lonely day, having a safe place to drop a note or express sorrow can make all the difference in the world. On those days, just a few “likes” on a post can feel like a bunch of tiny hugs. Others have established celebratory events to honor and remember those who are lost – not just in the weeks and months following the loss, but also in the subsequent years. Wine and photos and laughter and tears are a perfect recipe for healing, or perhaps working with other community members to plan an annual show benefitting a cause the person loved. Coming together, whether two people or two hundred, helps relieve not only the immediate, intense pain, it also helps the long-term grieving process.
One of the ways I work with clients experiencing loss and grief is through Wisdom Therapy. This approach honors grief and sorrow, but also highlights the wisdom, insight, and personal growth that come from surviving something so painful. Finding something meaningful, some way to feel like your struggle can be purposeful, can be incredibly healing. The Burlesque Hall of Fame does a number of fantastic things along these lines, including scholarship funds and memorial projects. Getting involved with these projects, or establishing your own, can not only provide a meaningful conduit for grief, it can also help connect those who need support. On a more personal level, many of us use tattoos to inscribe meaning on our bodies; whether large, like the person’s face or name, or small, like a tiny set of whiskers on a finger, a tattoo can help ease the fear of forgetting and can be a source of storytelling and memory sharing. Others may find meaning through artwork, dance, or other creative endeavors.
There is no right way to grieve, because no two experiences of grief are alike. It is helpful to connect with others who are also grieving, but, ultimately, grief is an individual pursuit. Tear Soup is one of my favorite books about grief; in fact, not only does it illustrate the grieving process so beautifully, it can also be a catalyst for the grief itself. It is simple and short, perfect for kids and adults, and has a powerful message. I have read it a million times, and have bought and given away more copies than I can count. I strongly recommend that everyone have a copy – even if you aren’t struggling now, you will someday. It’s also so helpful to be able to pull it from the shelf and hand it to someone in need.
Grief is like the ocean. The waves may crash, but they will calm. They pound relentlessly, but that will pass. You’ll learn when to duck, and when to swim. You’ll learn to handle the salt in your eyes. At some point, the gentle nudging of the water’s edge may even become comforting, and when the tide rises again and the grief swells, you’ll hold your breath and wait for calmer waters. The ocean never ceases, but it is tamed. Do not be afraid to put on your polka-dot bikini and heart-shaped sunglasses and dive right in – you will not drown. Float on your back, look up at the stars, and let their radiance envelop you.
See also: Lillith’s Thoughts on Suicide
For more information, resources, or to find a friendly ear, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org