I could sing any number of high praises for Darlene, but I am going to keep this introduction short because you will know them all to be true by reading or listening to this interview. Meeting her was one of my greatest delights. She exudes kindness and joy and love in ways I have rarely, if ever before, encountered. Just being with her offered me very welcome encouragement and she will long remain a source of inspiration for me. I owe a big thank you to Susanne for connecting us together. Darlene's participation in this project is a gift to every single one of us.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
Well, I'm a citizen of the world. I've lived all over the world and I love culture; I love people. Sort of an amateur anthropologist because I'm so curious about people and love to connect and see how we're the same. No matter where I've been I can always find common threads - nice word for you. And, for the past many years, I would say I'm a teacher of personal growth and well-being.
What matters to you?
For so many years it was all about children and family. And now, in my later years, it's still that connection of community, which I love so much, and the well-being of others.
Where does your motivation come from?
Well, I would have to say grief because it meant so much to me to have a family - I've brought forth five little boys and then I've lost two of them in the last 19 years. So, that's my motivation. It was how to live through that and how to find it as a source - a catalyst - for growth. So that's how Good Grief came into being. My motivation was to get well; to not stay stuck. I've known a lot of mothers who have lost children and they are stuck and devastated for the rest of their lives and I knew I could not do that. So, it was to get well and then realizing that a lot of people are trying to get well from many different sources of grief; trying to rise above it but not having tools and knowing how to do it. Because, typically, we're denying grief; we numb it; we medicate it; we (laughs) do everything we can to avoid it. And now it's really... grief is what motivates me. And I love good grief; I love sharing grief and finding the goodness in it.
What do we mean to each other individual to individual?
I think we're moving toward global oneness, but before we can get to that, we have to be connected to our own source of well-being - whatever that means to each person - to the divine, to the Earth. And knowing that we're connected to ourselves, to the divine, to one another. And it really increases that sense of global community and oneness.
What are your thoughts on when people's source of well-being is in contrast to the greater good?
Mmhmm. I can recognize it and call it paradise feigned. I think it's where a vast majority of our people live in that space - trying to cope, trying to be happy, trying to be well - without getting to the root of that which has caused us to be unwell. It is the human condition is to lose our well-being and it happens very early in life and we're always trying to find it again. We're seeking that paradise. But we get stuck and we find ways to cope that aren't necessarily really healthy - not for us, not for our families, not for out communities.
What does community mean to you?
It's been a big learning; community's tough to define. And it's very difficult to build community. I think, for me, what it means is that we all find our humanity in one another. That we all suffer, we all have pain, we all have joy, we all want to be happy, we want to be well. And finding that sense in other people. When I hold my community groups here that's what people are really amazed to realize - is that they're not alone. Because we tend to feel very, very alone when we haven't worked with our issues of grief and loss. And to realize, Wow (laughs) everybody in this room feels like I do. Mmhmm. And that's very connecting; it's the beginning of our work. It's the beginning to be able to acknowledge that; 'cause what we don't acknowledge, we can't heal.
Throughout my life I've participated in various small groups. And those can be inspiring and invigorating, but it seems that once we leave that setting and get back into the world, we often forget about the experiences we had there. How do we hold onto the lessons that we learn?
I think we need the tools. I think we need to accumulate tools. I go to the prison every week and have been doing this for many years. They've taken to calling me the Grief Sherpa. And so, it's true; I have a lot of tools; I have a lot to share. And I unload those tools week by week. But we need the tools; we need to know. That's why we're coping instead of actually doing anything about our loss and pain. We're coping, but we're not doing anything about the source of that.
On the other side of the what matters to you question, what concerns you?
What concerns me is the enormous pain in this world and the way it creates so much separation. And that's never gonna help. The more we divide and separate, the more pain we're in as a global community. And so, again, going back to finding our humanity and our connection to one another, our connection to source, our own true well-being as individuals then creates that opportunity to connect on deeper, deeper levels. And that's what's missing.
There's a myriad of social injustices. What's your role, or one's role, in the fight against those?
Mmhmm. Well, I would say my work is not a fight against anything, but more a positive guidance towards that which brings us together.
Sometimes people need a bit of an arm-twisting. So where do guidance toward and fight against meet?
You bet your boots (laughs). Well, I'm a great believer in honoring the fact that we're all on a continuum. I believe that every living being is engaged to become well; to be stewards of this Earth; to be in oneness. Usually what's going to catalyze a person to pay attention - to stop whatever they're doing in however whey they are coping - it takes, often, a really big, almost traumatic thing in some cases to make people stop and realize, Wow, whatever I'm doing is not working. And they call this hitting bottom. In our world of grief - I work with many, many addicts, too - it's just realizing, This isn't it; doesn't work; I'm not well; I'm not happy. My men end up at prison for a very good reason - that they've hit bottom in another way. And, unfortunately, that's what it takes. Because when most people think of grief, they'll say, I don't have any grief. You know? And we immediately... the subject is gone. Like right now. 'Cause just that word grief turns people off. They're gonna either change the subject, they're gonna run, or they're gonna say, What? What do you do? Grief? And they're on to something else. It's kind of a verboten word and it's verboten to go there. It's almost like, How dare (laughs) anybody want to take me out of my bubble? It's very interesting territory. But it speaks to those who are ready. There's a readiness and people know it. And they know when they're not.
Why do you suppose we have to work toward wellness? The way you speak about seems to imply that we're born unwell.
Not born unwell, no. No! But we are immediately born into a world where we are gonna be programmed and conditioned and imprinted. It happens to all of us. Mmhmm. And right from the beginning... I used to say by five years old we're really conditioned. We already have our map of the world and we know where we fit in. But now they're saying it's more like age two or three years old that we already have been so taken out, really, of our sort of pristine innocence. Yeah. And I believe that to be true.
Do you have a name for why?
Mmhmm. I do. Paradise lost. Yeah. We're brought into human condition. And the human condition is that there's gonna be a lot of pain, separation, and suffering. And so it's almost like we really spend many years, if not most of our lives, really trying to heal that which occurred early in life to understand where negative beliefs came in. Negative beliefs such as unworthiness or lacking somewhere, not belonging, not being loved - these are really basic negative core beliefs that every single one of us have unless we're born a saint. Yeah.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Oh, absolutely. I stand squarely in my purpose. Yeah, I know what it is. And I already mentioned it; I'm a teacher of personal growth. I'm really patient with people; allowing them their journey through the growth process. But I also know when people are not ready. And so my patience goes a long, long way. But when I understand people are not ready to go any further I really get it and I honor it. They will be someday. And, by the way, that is an intuitive thing - you mentioned it - that we don't have to be moving toward well-being. It's an intuitive part of being in the human condition. We are seeking that well-being. And it may be in alcohol, it may be all the ways we become addicted and numbed out. And so, the intuitive thing is to get well. Mmhmm. And that's the continuum we're speaking of.
What do you want more of in your life?
What do I want more in my life? Absolutely nothing (laughs). I'm just as well and happy as I can be; as I've ever been in my whole life. Yeah. It's too bad you have to get to 72 (laughs) to get that. Just more of all of it.
Do you have anything you'd like to put out there?
Let's see if there's anything more that I haven't spoken to. Well, I haven't mentioned love. And I think that's certainly the key to everything I do in this world. And this journey to wellness and wholeness and well-being in the world is all about love. Eckhart Tolle says, All love is the love of self. And, for most of us, we think, Whoa, that really sounds selfish. And yet, it's not meant that way. But as we become centered in the love of who we are, it's really easy, as we do our inner work of healing, that that love energy goes out into the world and everyone is blessed by that. Everyone. When more and more of us are becoming the love that we are, we are creating that heaven on Earth - that global community where everybody thrives. We have quite a ways to go yet (laughs), but I'm there. That's my work. That's my joy. And I don't leave that space. And I see that in you, by the way, my dear. Being the love that you are. And it's not easy to be that in this world because many people don't understand it - what it is. But they will. They remember. 'Cause love, when it's met and felt, it remains.