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How the LIGHT Movement Began...

Updated: Apr 18



Hello! My name is Amy Pickett-Williams. I have been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for twenty-five years (happy anniversary, to me). I am also a yoga teacher and specialize in somatic (mind/body/spirit connection) therapy. Twenty-six years ago, I was recovering from some extensive surgery. While I did not have cancer, I was put on the oncology floor, as that was where beds were available. My week stay, brought joy to the nurses, as I was a healthy young woman, and I was full of humor. They encouraged the oncology social worker to visit someone who was not sick or dying. She came to visit me and I felt such a sense of beauty in her being and what her life path truly was. In our conversation, I asked if she would want an intern next year. She agreed, and that was the start to my humbling career.


The next year, 1998-1999, I would intern in the bone marrow transplant unit. At that time, doctors were transplanting many types of cancer. It was a relatively new procedure. We did see some success, but a lot of deaths occurred. My first patient was a man in his forties. He had been a motorcycle rider for many years. He was big, full of tattoos, and had very different life experiences than I did. He decided that he would be my teacher. I would learn about his emotions, his traumas, his bone marrow transplant physical symptoms and all that came with it. I sat with him as he would vomit, I would step out when he had extreme diarrhea, and held space as this strong man would share his fears and tears.


Our journey, together, sadly completed just before I graduated. He died from complications of his transplant. His last words to me, after I shared my gratitude of being his student, was "I wish I had more time to teach you." His words helped guide me to continue the journey of learning and working with the sick, the dying, and the bereaved. I believe it is the most intimate and humbling of all journeys in this life.

The next years would take me to working with people who are homeless and providing hospice care, working with children experiencing medically complex challenges, children who had burns-some by their caregivers, and children with cancer or other blood disorders. I sat with children and teens as they learned of their diagnosis, sat with their parents and siblings as they processed fears and hopes. I held space for children experiencing death and the families who mourned the most intense pain a parent can ever feel. Later, I would continue this journey, in private practice.


My heart song is still working with grief, and as I have learned over the many years of doing this, grief is not just about death of a human or pet. It is about the loss of a relationship through separation or divorce. It is about the loss of health or independence. It is about the loss of employment or housing or financial change. It is about infertility. It is about becoming a parent or empty nester and losing the sense of a previous identity. It is about a mental health diagnosis, such as depression or anxiety or PTSD and temporarily grieving the loss of feeling at peace. It is about terrorism or war, and losing all sense of safety. Now, my work with clients is not only about holding space for those who grieve from death but all the other ways we grieve. Grief is a collective experience. No one is immune from it.

We all learn from our experiences. My life, like all of yours, has experienced many twists and turns. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about how yoga has greatly changed my life. I compared my life to the great Saguaro cactus. For years, the arms of my cactus were very straight, almost cross-like, one experience done, and onto the next. As I healed and integrated my experiences, my arms would flow, like a vinyasa yoga class, slowly moving arms towards each others, almost like a hug. I was learning the integration of all paths lead to a journey of wholeness and new beginnings. COVID then challenged our world. Our youngest son had some serious health issues, so we stayed isolated longer than most. My parents were incredible supports and helped with homeschooling our three boys during this time, as both my husband and I continued to work.


On October 13, 2020, our lives forever changed. We had been camping with my parents as it was one activity we could safely do as a family. My parents were returning their RV. It was a very windy day. My dad went to close the gate of the RV storage facility, and a gust of wind pushed the gate so intensely that my dad fell onto his head. For two days he was on life support, we learned he was brain dead, and we withdrew the support. For the next year plus, life was about caring for three children, my mom, my clients and my own grief. Fortunately, my husband and friends held space and cared for me.


My dad was an incredible human being. He was an education lawyer and spoke nationally on mandated reporting, preventing school violence, protecting children-including transgender youth needing a safe place to use school restrooms. For many years, he would encourage me to teach about my experiences of working with sick and dying children and their families. I would always decline, as I am more of an introvert and loved the individualized support I offered my therapy clients. Once again; however, my life had another twist on its journey.

On my 47th bday, my husband and I were hiking just outside Ojo Caliente. It was a beautiful hike, and at the top of the mesa was an old mica mine. As we walked, there was the crunch of what felt like shimmering diamonds, under our feet. On our way down, there were several steep sections, one of which had a juniper tree jutting out of the loose rocks. I held onto the juniper tree and thanked it for its support, giving it a gentle hug, and commenting to my husband how much it had likely supported others down this steep trail. Fast forward to the end of the hike, another steep part. My husband suggested he take the lead, as he has been a mountaineer all of his life, and I have struggled with balance as my feet and legs were not formed correctly. My stubborn, Aries self, expressed it was my birthday so I was going to lead. I slowly took some steps down, but the loose rocks caused me to slide. I slipped and tumbled down an embankment, somersaulting over prickly pear cactus, sharp rocks, and impacted dirt. I fell over 40 feet. I do not remember much about the fall, except when my head crashed into a rock and saying to myself, “that’s not good,” as my dad had died from a fall and hitting his head. My body was punctured with over 600 cactus spines, I had a severe concussion, fractured tibia, and lots of deep bruising. I did not die.


Do you know what saved my life? I would have fallen another 60 feet and surely died but another lone Juniper tree stopped my fall. Such beauty and the sacred interconnectedness of life. We raced to the hospital. The good news is I did not have a brain bleed, so I would not follow in my dad’s footsteps. After multiple hours, they discharged me. My husband went to get the car, and while I was waiting, I fully passed out in the emergency waiting room with my poor husband witnessing this.. My eyes were fully dilated, and I was unresponsive. Now, two times in a day, he thought I had died. They readmitted me to the hospital. This time, imaging my belly to ensure I did not have internal bleeding. Fortunately, I did not, but instead, a mass was found in my belly.


Long story short, I had cancer. I underwent surgery and feel so much better, now. Can you believe it? That Juniper tree saved my life, twice! I will revisit my writing of the Sankalpa of integration. Isn't life so mysterious? It is the continued integration of all paths, and all parts. The words of my dad, have returned to me over the past few months as I have healed and continue to integrate my journey. Over the past couple months, I have truly felt my dad's presence. I believe the acronym of LIGHT (Love In Grief, Held Together), came from him. Love always is in our grief, and held together explains that connection of love and grief, AND we have to hold space and support for ALL people experiencing grief). I believe he reminded me of the courage and strength I have always had, and now I will speak of the lessons learned.

As I began to talk about the movement of LIGHT, people started sharing their grief experiences and also feeling called to be a part of this movement. We now have a group of dedicated volunteers supporting this effort. I see this as a piece of cake (yummy). I believe the cake base is about all of us coming together to hold space for all those who grieve. We are from many backgrounds, cultures, and faith modalities standing in solidarity to support all types and layers of grief of ALL people. We plan to have leaders of multiple spiritual traditions passing the candlelight to all who attend. The icing on the cake will be the Somatic Healing of Our Grief Workshop. This is the accumulation of what I have learned from my clients, and my experiences in life, including being a student and teacher of yoga. All of this encompasses an understanding of the mind/body connection. I hope you will take away lessons for your own healing and learn how to integrate the somatic (mind/body/spirit) connection into your life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope, you too, will share this movement. Can you imagine the LIGHT shining on the darkest day of the year? The hope, love and compassion will be palpable. I hope our dream will become a reality. Our world desperately needs LIGHT. Much peace to you all. Namaste.


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8 comentários


Marian Camden
Marian Camden
31 de out. de 2023

What a beautiful story! And how beautiful that you are sharing your story in this way to bring comfort, healing, and hope to all who suffer the human experiences of loss and grief. Keep writing! Keep sharing! The world needs you.

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Betty Arca
Betty Arca
27 de out. de 2023

It has been said that “Grief is love, with nowhere to go.” You, Amy, have been providing ‘somewhere‘ for ‘grief’ to go,…..for over twenty years. You’ve listened with an open heart to so many in pain. You‘ve carried their grief. You’ve brought light to the dark. And this movement, “Love in grief held together,” begun by you, but embraced and fueled by many, is a testament to our need to hold a place for grief In a united way; and in a global way. As we come together to give light to our darkest moments, we will hold each other in our arms and find a longed for peace I believe this will be so. Thank you Amy

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Betty Arca
Betty Arca
27 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

Yes, this movement is an extension of the love given by so many grief counselors and nurses and caregivers over hundreds, maybe millions, of years. The blue LIGHT will shine over all. Let it be so.

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Kay Grice
Kay Grice
27 de out. de 2023

Thank you for sharing your story, Amy. What a gift to be on this journey with you! If we don't acknowlege our grief, someday that grief will come up and grab us. And I will always see the juniper tree in a new LIGHT. Namaste.

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Amy Pickett-Williams
Amy Pickett-Williams
27 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

There is such synchronicity in all our lives. 🙏

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Susan Lee
Susan Lee
26 de out. de 2023

Grief comes in many forms and touches all of us. Thank you Amy Picket-Williams for sharing and for spearheading A Night To Illuminate Grief.

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Amy Pickett-Williams
Amy Pickett-Williams
27 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

I have so much gratitude for all who are coming together to LIGHT up our world.

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