When I saw those words in my calendar – Grief workshop 10am-6pm – I thought “What the heck was I thinking when I signed up for that??!” And then I thought, I don’t have anything big to grieve anyway. I will feel like an imposter.
But a few beats later, I remembered: Your marriage. You need to grieve the death of your marriage.
Oh yeah, that.
We do so much to distract ourselves from loss. We get busy. We numb. We hang out on social media, so we don’t have to feel our sorrow. Our aloneness.
As I walked into the meditation center where the workshop would be held, I felt it begin to bubble up in my chest… and the tears began to pool in my eyes. It was as if my body was already thanking me – thank you for inviting me to the party. Thank you for putting your attention on me. I never get invited to the party!
And I found myself so grateful that I had finally been invited to inhabit and express my sorrow somewhere. There was something to do with it other than suppress it or contain it.
Francis Weller writes and speaks beautifully about grief. I’ve watched this talk over and over again. (Watch the whole thing. It’s life-changing) He talks about the extent to which we can carve out space for our sorrow is the extent to which we can make space to feel joy. He talks about how we have become a flatline culture – with a narrow range of what we’re allowed to feel. He talks about coming together in community to grieve as part of our “soul hygiene.” That to “speak of sorrow works upon it.”
He spoke about how we have undigested sorrows… and that grief is a capacity we can build, a skill that we can strengthen. It requires courage and vulnerability. It requires a willingness to be with things as they are.
He says: “Grief might be the remedy that heals us. Grief is wild. It’s feral. And when we touch it, we are alive.”
There were about 70 people in the room and we began drumming and singing. I was amazed by the beauty of all the voices (just regular people singing, young and old) and how it sounded like the most exquisite church choir.
We broke out into small groups to share and did several powerful writing assignments using prompts like: I remember.. I wish someone would ask me… and my real grief is…
Then the ritual began.
We had all brought special things to put on the altar – photographs, flowers, rocks, anything that felt sacred. And while the whole community sang a kind of mantra (putting us in a kind of meditative trance) we each went to the altar to grieve. You could do whatever felt right up there – shout, cry, be silent – while the rest of us held space for you. When you came back you were received by the community with hugs and loving attention.
The alchemy of this process was palpable. You felt transformed by it.
Francis spoke beautifully about how it was an alchemical process – “how bringing some heat to it transmutes it into medicine. We feed the fire with our attention, our compassion, our curiosity and our affection.”
It’s taken me months to write about this, but as I ride new waves of grief, I needed to remind myself again.
That by bringing our sorrow into the light we have the opportunity to heal.
That by bringing loving attention and compassion to it, it softens and changes in our hearts.
That by taking it out of the shadows and into community (even just another person) it becomes an offering of healing for all of us.
Thank you for being part of my loving community that helps witness my process – my joys and my sorrows. I believe we are all lifted up by this energy and I’m so grateful.