Breeshia Wade returned to Stanford to share their journey since leaving college and adventuring in the world, using their experiences as a birth doula and an end-of-life caregiver to offer insight into how our long-term relationships with grief offer powerful lessons about love and intimacy. Their talk, "The Gift of Being Haunted," was part of my Healing HeArts Circles, a series of intimate gatherings and workshops with artists exploring their journeys of healing and empowerment in individual and community contexts. These are times to share vulnerable and authentic space with artists whose work expresses our human diversity and oneness as well as the intimate connection of spirituality and social justice.
A Southern-Baptist "born and raised" Black woman, graduate of Stanford University and the University of Chicago, Breeshia is completing their American Baptist ordination while finishing a 2-year Buddhist chaplaincy program through Upaya Zen Center. As a lay ordained Zen Buddhist chaplain, they have extensive experience supporting families through grief and loss. Breeshia talked about how their Buddhist practice, Baptist tradition and experience as a Reiki Master Teacher inform their approach to transitions--whether serving families as a chaplain on the Newborn Intensive Care Unit or supporting parents as a doula in the Mother Baby Unit--and ground their practice.
From their talk:
Chaplains are frequently required to stop by new patients’ rooms to check-in and introduce ourselves. Even if a patient doesn't request to see a chaplain, we are required to make our presence known. So, I show-up and knock. Depending on the person's relationship to chaplains, hospital, doctors etc.--not to mention their current mood--I've been kicked out, yelled at and/or have just been rejected. I realize that patients don't really get to consent to who walks in and out of their rooms at the hospital--they are poked and prodded at all hours of the night. I see my role as someone who facilitates healing through initiating healthy relationships and opening up possibilities. Sometimes, people experience their higher power/healing in the ability to say "no," which I think can be particularly powerful amidst the helplessness of sickness and death.
Knocking on doors brought-up a lot of grief for me. It reminded me of the times I’d been scared, rejected and/or felt alone. We all carry grief because we are all aware of what it means to experience loss, and many of us are afraid to die. I believe that most people are driven by their grief as opposed to being informed by it. The awareness of temporality/mortality is what drives us to love, to avoid, to connect and to "achieve.” Even if we haven't experienced what we'd call a "significant" loss, we know someone who has, so we must be mindful of the grief we all carry, simply by virtue of the fact that we live in relation to other beings.
I've known them since their teen years and witness the transformative growth in their twenties, integrating Christian and Buddhist chaplaincy training and becoming someone who facilitates healing through initiating healthy relationships and opening up possibilities. Their powerful "mastery" of self and environment balances with a growing ability to let go, surrender, and heartfully embrace the "mystery." Breeshia reminds us that being attentive to our own experiences connects us to the world around us, and being aware of our grief brings us closer to building the relationships and the communities that we need.
Feel free to check them out at breeshiawade.com