The Grief Tendress: Bindi Sawchuk

By Bindi Sawchuk


I am the Grief Tendress… and it comes as a complete surprise to me, because I never wanted to be… I mean, who would? Right?

I was a child who played with fairies in the forest and have always been deeply sensitive to things unseen.

At the age of 14, I was thrust into the tangled underworld of grief when my mother died. After a few short months of her illness being diagnosed, I lost everything. She was my only parent, my best friend, protector, and cheerleader. The shock was so acute! I was completely bewildered, dumbfounded and unable to accept what was incomprehensible. For many years I secretly believed she was still alive… somewhere… and it was all some sick joke. I would hear her laughter in a crowded room and desperately search for her. I would wake up from dreams about her, unsure of what was real.

Like many, I turned to alcohol to cope. It was socially acceptable and gave me a way to laugh when life was so grey; in time it became my kryptonite. At the age of 38, I sobered up and started the earnest work of facing the pain of losing my mother, my ‘marriage’ and all my coping mechanisms. Every time I touched grief, mine, or anyone else’s, it felt like I was engulfed in lifetimes of never-ending grief and sorrow. The intensity of grief I felt was always disproportionate to the situation. I felt trapped — unable to go fully into the experience of loss for fear of overwhelm, and unable to keep it pushed down. Grief haunted me.

I started to make peace with the past after several years of years of introspection, personal growth and spiritual practice — but it was short-lived. The start of 2013 also began a decade of complex trauma and loss. I learned one of my adult children had a life-threatening addiction. A year later, my other child experienced a severe mental health crisis which I didn’t know whether they could recover from. This began my ongoing, and continuing journey, of grieving the loss of my dreams for my children’s lives. I began to live with a fear of the “other shoe falling,” wondering what fresh tragedy would occur next.

In 2018, my beloved soulmate died in my arms after a very short and steep decline from liver cancer. I went into a state of deep grief as we do. Listening to his music, wearing his clothes… wandering about like a ghost in the everydayness of life.

I couldn’t do anything about all the loss and fear of more loss, so I focused on my work where I felt I had some control. The tendency toward workaholism was already there, and when the pandemic hit, I lost all sense of balance in my life. Work required more from me than it ever had before, and in 2021 I burned out completely. Once again, I found myself at a complete loss — with nowhere to hide and nothing to do but face the pain and do the work to start healing at a much deeper level.

The grief was so intense I felt like I was buried under 3,000 pounds of concrete, day in and day out.

This is when I learned about the Grief Recovery Method, which helped me make sense of the complex traumatic losses I had experienced. As the healing process continued, I realized that I felt like a victim of life. I couldn’t understand why a Divine benevolent force would give me so much pain and loss… one thing after another, after another. My work was taking more than it was giving — the love of my life was gone — my grown children were on their own paths — and I was still here… with nothing to look forward to.

In a meditation, I asked, ‘Why would anyone be given so much grief and loss?’…. and the answer landed like a soft snowflake in front of me… ‘to serve others at the gate of loss’… and in that moment I understood that all my experiences were necessary to be of service to others. Shortly after that, the name “Grief TendressTM” came to me in mediation with an understanding that it is my job to tend to grief, in a tender way, that helps individuals and our Western culture learn to grieve in good ways.

We live in such a ‘death-defying’ culture, that can only tolerate sadness for the length of a few lines in a hallmark card before we are expected to just get on with life. Our rituals around death and grief are almost non-existent, other than finding ways to numb the pain. After my beloved partner died, a well-meaning work colleague told me that “grief is depression, and you should just ask for anti-depressants.” The pain of loss is natural, but we struggle horribly with that pain in a culture that doesn’t know how to allow it.

I am passionate about people having the opportunity to experience good grief, like the good pain of a wound that is healing well. I long to see our culture learn to honour and respect grief as the primal, powerful, and amazing process that it is… to truly express the full power of our love for what is lost and to find ritualistic ways to have those relationships continue.

To be the Grief Tendress is to champion a new relationship to grief and loss. I don’t have all the answers, but I have been called to take up this path and I will always be a student at the gate of grief, trusting that each step I take on this path is a continuation of my love for all that I have lost.

~ May you find moments of peace in your pain.

~ May you know that what you feel is right.. and alright.

~ May you be surrounded by those who hold space for your experience for as long as you need.

For more information about Bindi, you can check out her website.


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