By Hannah Fowler
There is a place in us where grief hides. Her voice echoes to us from inner spheres. We feel her familiar tug of sorrow as she beckons us with a gnawing deep in our core. It matters not if we divert our eyes and ears from her, for sooner or later she will announce her presence with a resounding howl.
Her army of anguish spills over into achy bones and knots in our chest. Can you hear her? Is she wailing in you, or whispering subtly?
From the beginning of time, she has signaled our hearts that the one we love has changed form; they have washed ashore the beach of stars in a canoe made of our tears. “Wail!” she screams, for it is the missing of our beloved that keeps them alive: that keeps us alive. Grief and praise are twins. Their expression feeds Spirit and sings to the bittersweet consequence of having been privileged to enter another’s heart.
Though if grief is in each of us, why do we carry her silently and alone? Why are we unskilled in speaking and tending to her? Why have we been deprived the antidote to nurse her pain? We are not taught the language of grief or how to express heartache as our ancestors once did. Modern day Western culture suffers largely from spiritual unemployment. We’ve become conditioned, machine-like people who pride ourselves on our ability to hide emotions.
Through generations of assimilation, we inherited the dismal curse of suppressing our tears which have compounded in us: we are walking pressure cookers. Bombarded with daily injustices against BIPOC and the environmental destruction of our home planet, we all carry this weight yet bear the burden alone. In denying our grief, our identity becomes small and we endure feelings of loneliness. We are more grief laden than ever, but the least skilled in our ability to express it. Our ability to process sorrow depends on the sense of community we have, and in this divisive age we are starved of both this and grief’s antidote: ritual.
Ritual is the lost medicine we need.
The good news is we still have the ingredients for this remedy, but need to recover the recipe on how to prepare it. Rest your weary heart for a moment and lay down your grief, as we remember how to do just this.
Ritual offers containment and release. This process allows us to move our pain through creative expression, so we may transmute it to healing: to let go and receive Grace. It is a maintenance practice: the soul hygiene we are missing in this time of worldwide grief, confusion and calamity. Ritual offers us periods of relief and renewal. The first ingredient in ritual is to summon our kinship to this Earth, to one another, to our ancestors and to our own soul. Ask them to aid you in surrendering this burden you were not meant to carry alone. The next step in preparing the elixir is solely to turn toward your grief and let the alchemy begin in whatever form enthralls you.
You may be called to the ritual of writing. Write a letter to the one who has left your sight: write of your sorrows, your joys, of the good days and the bad. Go to the elements and cast your letters unto them, for there is medicine in offering your sorrows to nature. Bring friends or family to the ocean, the river, the bonfire; surrender your prayers and offerings to these elements with intention. There is also the sweet nectar of dance. Settle in with the aim of embracing your grief softly and warmly: put on a song that calls to you and move your body! Dance through your grief as many have before you.
Others prefer the tonic of simply gathering friends and drinking up one another’s stories of loss, without trying to fix anything. There is nothing here to fix, but only to be witnessed, absorbed and moved through. Find a community of those who are willing to gather in ceremony. It matters not what you do, but that you do it. We must recover our right to ask for help in grief, and we must remember how to develop a living relationship with loss through ritual: our lives depend on it. In death, just as in life, we are responsible for making meaning of things.
So, come and try this medicine. Make rituals of each day. Infuse your moments with stories, tears, and gratitude. Add a spoonful of wonder and give it space to steep an aromatic tea.
This is the recipe of a breathing, colorful life, and a full cup: the medicine for grief. It is a fair price to pay for a ticket to ride, costing only your willingness to turn toward life’s fullness by honoring the sadness that inevitably comes with honoring the light. Our debt for being here is to praise life as well as death, and to remember the deeper the sorrow, the greater the joy: both equally important parts of this world. Ritual allows us this liberty and breaths magic into life, making even the unbearable somehow gracious.
We are not separate from one another or this Earth. In thinking we are our bodies, in our mad pursuit of consumerism and false identity, we have forsaken the magnificence of existence: the opportunity to open to this moment here, to our inner wisdom. Let us drink from this cup together and reclaim healing, which is only experienced as a function of our openness to it. We are the whole cosmos expressing itself here: our time has come to start acting like it.
About the Author:
Hannah Fowler is the founder of Eternal Grace End of Life Doula Services in Key West, FL. Hannah is a certified Sacred Passage Death Doula, Registered Nurse and Healing Touch Practitioner. Learn more about her work at Eternal Grace End Of Life Doula Services.