Coming Home to Grief – PRIVATE SESSIONS

Coming Home to Grief


An Experiential Creative Arts Journey into Healing Grief

In a safe, welcoming and grief-friendly environment, we will follow the original Coming Home to Grief curriculum, in eight (8) private face-to-face meetings.

Click the links below to learn more.

What is Art Therapy? …And why use it to move through grief?

This program is not a therapy process, however, art therapy techniques are employed to help you move through your grieving process. Individuals will be given the opportunity to move back and forth between exploring their feelings related to the loss and to picture a restoration of orientation to the external world using a variety of different creative arts.

Grief is a profoundly deep experience and often lies beyond words, beyond the simple explanation of our conscious minds.  Grief is in the unconscious, in the mystery of life, that expression of the deep wounds and tragedy of loss is found.  Death and loss are dark to the mind.  They cannot be reduced to the rational — neither thought, nor interpretation, nor even memories.  It is through the expression of the inexpressible that art allows us to reach deep into our unconscious and touch this mystery.

collage griefArt therapy is a profession that combines therapy with the creative process to assist with individual development and concerns or conflicts (Bertman, 1999).  Art therapy is practices in many therapeutic settings such as mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, hospices, and in psychotherapy.  The language of art and creative expression can speak to us in ways that words cannot speak (Malchiodi, 1998, Neimeyer, 2000).  Art therapy is based on the belief that images can help us understand who we are and enhance life through self-expression (Malchiodi, 1998).  Intermodal expressive therapy uses all artistic or creative modalities.  the use of art therapy can tell us about the inner world of the individual through the process of creating artwork, or by analyzing the product of the artist.” (J. Earl Rogers)

In the curriculum for Coming Home to Grief, however, we are not attempting to use art as therapy, although that may result.  Rather, this program offers participants to express their story in different ways without the analysis of the facilitator.  It is strictly a personal process to allow a participant to recognize the loss(es) that she/he is dealing with, experience the feelings connected with their loss and suffering, adjust to a new world, and to help in reconstructing a new relationship with whoever or whatever they have lost.

Using oral story, poetry, collage, sand tray, physical movement, drama, music, and ritual, you will be given the opportunity to move back and forth between exploring your feelings related to the loss and to picture a restoration of orientation to the external world.  You will keep a journal during the course to tie it all together and offer you an ability to look back and see the journey you have walked.

*Note: You don’t need to be an artist or performer to join this group!  The modalities used in this program have been chosen so that anyone can benefit.

Introduction to Francis Weller’s Five Gates of Grief

Grief_take all the time you needWe ALL carry grief and having a place to express and alchemize it is hugely important if we are to live truly healthy lives.  Respected psychotherapist and grief counselor Francis Weller has written about five different types of grief which he calls “Gates”.  They are as follows:

Gate 1)  “Everything We Love We Will Lose”—At this gate we lose relationships, we may lose a home taken away by foreclosure; we lose a career; we lose friends and places that we loved. We may lose body parts through an amputation or mastectomy. We may lose an animal. Anything that we love, we will lose, and our hearts will be broken.

Gate 1 poem: For Those Who Have Died – A poem by Eleh Ezkerah – These We Remember

‘Tis a fearful thing

To love

What death can touch.

To love, to hope, to dream,

And oh, to lose.


A thing for fools, this,


But a holy thing,

To love what death can touch.


For your life has lived in me;

Your laugh once lifted me;

Your word was a gift to me.


To remember this brings painful joy.


“Tis a human thing, love,

A holy thing,

To love

What death can touch.

This kind of grief says that I dared to love, that I allowed another to enter the very core of my being and find a home in my heart. Grief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives. To love is to accept the rites of grief.

Gate 2)   “The Places That Have Not Known Love”—These are places within ourselves that have never known love because they have been wrapped in shame or guilt. They have been banished and sent away. These are the parts of us that we perceive as defective. Often our grief about these parts isn’t expressed through tears but through anger and rage. So the path to healing is to grieve these parts of ourselves because they affirm that we are worth crying over and that our losses matter.

These neglected pieces of soul live in utter despair. What we perceive as defective about ourselves, we also experience as loss. Whenever any portion of who we are is denied, we live in a condition of loss.

Gate 2 Poem: Coleman’s Bed – A poem by David Whyte on the ways we are in vited to welcome back the outcast parts of our being.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,

How the discarded is woven into shelter,

Learn the way things hidden and unspoken

Slowly proclaim their voice in the world.

Find that inward symmetry

To all outward appearances, apprentice

Yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back

All you sent away, be a new annunciation,

Make yourself a door through which

To be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.”

Grieving, by it’s very nature, confirms worth. I am worth crying over; my losses matter. Below is another poem that speaks to the Third Gate.

Gate 2 Poem: The Healing Time – A poem by Pecha Gertler

Finally on my way to yes

I bumped into

All the places

Where I said no

To my life

All the untended wounds

The red and purple scars

Those hieroglyphs of pain

Carved into my skin and bones,

Those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them, the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I life them

one by one

close to my heart

and I say     holy


Gate 3)   “The Sorrows Of The World”—This gate of grief opens when we register the losses of the world around us.  Whether we realize it or not, the daily diminishment of species, habitats and cultures is noted in our psyches. Much of the grief we carry is not personal, but shared, communal.  It takes everything we have to deny the sorrows of the world.  Pablo Neruda said, “I know the earth, and I am sad.”

To open our hearts to the sad history of humanity and the devastated state of the Earth is the next step in our reclamation of our bodies, the body of our human community, and the body of the Earth.

Western psychology would most likely suggest that the grief we are feeling is related to our own experience of being diminished as a child, a metaphoric clear-cut, as it were. What if, however, the feelings we have when we pass through these zones of destruction are actually arising from the land itself. What if we are not separate from the world at all? It is our spiritual responsibility to acknowledge these losses. What if this is the animas mundi, the soul of the world, weeping through us?

Gate 3 Poem: Kindness – A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

 Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak it till your voice

Catches the threat of all sorrows

And you see the size of the cloth.

Gate 4)   “What We Expected and Did Not Receive”—Most of us have so many of these that we have forgotten them or hidden them deep inside. Because it’s in our DNA, we expected to be received and held in a loving community as children. Because it’s in our DNA we expected to be lovingly guided through rites of passage in our adolescence. Because it’s in our DNA, we expected to find and live our purpose in life, really knowing and really contributing our unique and extraordinary gifts to the world. In other words, many of us feel spiritually unemployed.

How do we know that we miss these experiences? I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that when these things are finally granted to us, a wave of recognition rises that we have lived without this love, this acknowledgement, and the support of this village all our lives.

Another facet of loss at this gate concerns the expectation of purpose in our lives. Depp in our bones lies an intuition that we arrive here carrying a bundle of gifts to offer to the community. Over time, these gifts are meant to be seen, developed, and called into the village at times of need. To feel valued for the gifts with which we are born affirms our worth and dignity. In a sense, it is a form of spiritual employment – simply being who we are confirms our place in the village. That is one of the fundamental understandings about gifts: we can only offer them by being ourselves fully. Gifts are a consequence of authenticity; when we are being true to our natures, the gifts can emerge.

In our modern culture of hyperactivity and stress, we are seldom asked what we have carried into the world as a gift for the community. The frequent (and obscene) question is: “What do you do for a living?” Or worse, “How do you earn a living?”

Hidden within the losses of this gate lies our diminished experience of who we are.

Gate 5)   “Ancestral Grief”—This is the grief we carry in our bodies from sorrows experienced by our ancestors. This includes the sorrows of our ancestors that we may not even be consciously aware of, and it includes the collective sorrows of the abuses perpetrated onto and by our ancestors.  Examples include: The Civil War, Native American genocide, the Nazi holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Much of this grief lingers in a layer of silence, unacknowledged.

We hold this ancestral grief in our beings, even after many generations. This sorrow becomes concentrated over time, gathering grief unto itself, and is carried in our psyches unconsciously as diminished inheritance. The psychic inheritance of our ancestors was meant to be a blessing, but instead it is a layer of heaviness. The stoic façade and behaviors of these past generations left behind a legacy of unattended pain. Mayan shaman Martin Prechtel says that we are surrounded by the ghosts of unwept ancestors.

* These are excerpts from Francis Wellers’ writing in his excellent newly released book,”The Wild Edge of Sorrow“, (October, 2015) .  To learn more about the Five Gates of Grief, I recommend that you read this book, as it provides the foundational philosophical underpinning of the Coming Home to Grief series.

Logistics: Where? When? Cost? For How Long? Who Is It For?


Cost of 8-week program: Based on my fee scale for individual therapy sessions. Please see my rates here.

Requirements: Initial consultation (free), commitment to entire program.

Who is this program for?  Adults who are experiencing grief as a result of the loss of a significant other or from any of the Five Gates mentioned above.  This work is for individuals who want to participate in a creative support network for the purpose of moving through their grief.  This program is also available for college students and men or women specific groups who would like more support, and can be customized to meet your needs.  I will happily travel to your organization.   Participants must be 18 years or older unless it is specifically a teen program.

Where: At Jonathan Stein’s private office: 64 Elmwood Ct, Hadley, MA (click here for directions).

Cancellation Policy:  I very much look forward to working with you!  As you may have guessed, organizing and producing this program takes an extraordinary amount of time, energy and focus.  When you cancel, your decision has an impact on myself and potentially others.  Please take a moment to read and understand my Cancellation Policy, here.  By agreeing to work with me, you must also agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for taking time to understand how my Cancellation Policies works.  Clarity and understanding helps all of us.

Will there be homework? Answer: Yes and No!

As the old adage goes, “You get out of it what you put into it!”  That said, the suggested homework is completely optional but highly encouraged.  Homework will generally include writing in your journal between sessions.  As you will hear me say many times, your journal is the thread that ties this whole creative process together.  There will be instructions offered to make your journaling journey easy but, other than my suggestions, there will be no pressure and it is not a requirement.  All I can say is that it’s important to do and may play an important role in impacting the results of your healing process.

At times I will “assign” homework, meaning a specific writing exercise.  Again, it is up to you if you want to do it.  There may also be times when a creative project doesn’t get completed during our group time.  In this case, I will gently encourage you to complete it outside of the group.

Schedule of weekly activities for the 8-week series

This creative arts group will loosely follow the following line-up of activities and is subject to changes.

Session 1: The Story Tellers — Oral history and introduction

Session 2: The Written Story — Creative writing, journaling and poetry

Session 3: Sandtray — A nonverbal method of creating a microcosm of your story of loss

Session 4: The Body of Grief — Embodying the journey using movement

Session 5: The Mask — Healing through mask making

Session 6: The Music — Music making for expression and transformation

Session 7: Drama and Theater — Using drama to move through grief

Session 8: Grief and the Sacred Art of Ritual

The sessions build upon each other, each successive one incorporating what has been gleaned from those prior, culminating in a grief ritual in the final session.  

Coming Home to Grief Testimonials

“Jonathan is lovely to work with, creates a safe, gentle and accepting space for any experience.  The “Coming Home to Grief” process that he runs makes it possible to experience grief in a light way.  It didn’t have to be dramatic and deeply cathartic to be transformational.”

Thank you so much for facilitating such a fun and healing group…I would really like to continue doing this kind of inner work as I really thrive with the Expressive Arts. This group really helped to hold me up during a challenging time and each time I came something transformed internally. Thanks again, looking forward to the next one…”


Many people have inspired and influenced my thinking and my action in the world.  For a more comprehensive listing of these people, please go here where I’ve listed teachers, mentors and guides.  The Coming Home to Grief program has evolved out of my experience with all of those people and I send out many thanks to them!

However, I want to extend a special thank you to a few key individuals who have really helped me to bring this program together:

J. Earl Rogers – who offered personal support and also compiled and edited a great book entitled, The Art of Grief: The Use of Expressive Arts in a Grief Support Group.  As a creative arts therapist with experience facilitating the modalities he outlines in his model, The Art of Grief is absolutely foundational to this program and made it possible for me not to have to reinvent the wheel.  Producing the program was so much easier thanks to this publication.  Earl Roger’s book was pivotal in offering both sound advice in working with grieving individuals and groups, but also in how to design a cohesive, creative, dynamic and deeply transformative program offering.

Francis Weller – whose teachings, personal support and recent book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, have influenced me deeply in my studies, understanding and embodying of grief and the art of ritual.

Saphira Linden – the Artistic Director, Omega Theater/Theater Workshop Boston (since 1967), Co-Director Omega Transpersonal Drama Therapy Certificate Program, editor and visionary for the recently published transpersonal drama therapy anthology, The Heart and Soul of Psychotherapy, and teacher/mentor/guide of 25 years, who has endlessly held a clear vision of my creative potential even when I couldn’t.  A never ending source of inspiration and encouragement for me and countless others who she has helped along the way, I give great thanks to her.

Completed the program? Write an anonymous testimonial about Coming Home to Grief!

Click this link to navigate to the “Testimonials” page where you can write a review about the CHG program, or leave a review about Jonathan Stein.  Thank you!  You’re input helps others to get the support they need.


Click here to contact me for more info or to register.