We all know this feeling well. Most of us were taught not to acknowledge grief and, instead, to push that feeling down. I was. I wasn’t taught how to grieve. We, as an American culture, have mastered the technique of numbing it out in a lot of different ways: binge watching TV/Netflix, eating sweets, culturally accepted addictions, buying items to placate ourselves, keeping busy, etc. ANYTHING that will keep grief from being felt. The cultural deceptions that we have been taught in the United States that seeds grief are: 1. I am not good enough because (fill in the blank) 2. There isn’t enough (fill in the blank) 3. More is better 4. That is just the way it is.
I had a recent opportunity to participate in a Grief ceremony, based on the teachings from Sobonfu E. Some, from the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso in West Africa. It was a transformative experience for me. It was an honoring of the small griefs (trauma) and the bigger griefs (trauma). We were encouraged not to compare our grief to others. We all have our own unique experience of it.
Grief is an energy, a toxic chemical that gets stuck in the body. Grief will continue to fester somewhere in the body, building itself, asking to be seen, heard and felt. What if we allowed it to be felt instead of pushing it away? What would happen?
Being alive means grief will be an emotion that will be experienced many times. Learning to allow that emotion be felt and moved through the body, will allow the release. It is the path to healing the unattended grief. And we can’t do it alone. It takes community, it takes a village. Sobonfu advocated that “communal grieving offers something that we cannot get when we grieve by ourselves. Through validation, acknowledgement and witnessing, communal grieving allows us to experience a level of healing that is deeply and profoundly freeing.”
This ceremony was offered to those who felt grief. This included:
-People feeling grief for the loss of a loved one, a pet, a partnership, or a job
-Anyone stuck in unhealthy relationships or emotionally unhealthy situations
-People in transition of any kind, whether through a divorce, illness, accidents, or disappointed dreams
-People in recovery
-Front-line workers such as therapists, educators, nurses, social workers, hospice caregivers, policemen or women, activists
-Those feeling the collective grief of a violent world, or the environmental harm of the earth
-Anyone with sadness and pain to release
-People dealing with a chronic illness
-Those who have lost a loved one
In this ceremony, we made two beautiful and colorful altars: one for our Ancestral lineage and one for Forgiveness ( for ourselves and others). We also built a small hut, from fresh cedar boughs, to place our energetic grief in. We were taught a song, in Sobonfu’s native language, that was sung with beating of the Djembe drums, when we weren’t sitting in front of the altars or involved in the active grieving process, we were singing. There were 75 of us.
When we were in the active grieving process, we would sit in the area for grieving and a person, from the “village”, sat behind to hold space, not to touch or say soothing words, but to allow the griever the space to grieve in the form that moved through; sometimes gentle flowing tears, sometimes wailing, sometimes speaking/yelling, or any other form of expression that wished to be expressed.
For me, the grief showed up, initially, as a memories: perhaps long ago childhood experiences or adult experiences. I did not experience linear memories at all, more like “popcorn style.” Then an interesting sensation began to happen, I just would begin feeling grief in various parts of my body without a specific memory. I would go to sit in the grieving section and allow it, knowing I was safe with any expression that showed up.
At some point through this 2 day journey, I noticed my body began feeling lighter, the need to sit in the grieving section as the griever became less, my internal world widened and felt more expansive. So much was allowed to be felt, internally seen and released. I don’t have the words to convey the full internal changes and shifts that occurred within me. I can only tell you that I am not the same person that showed up. I am forever grateful for this beautiful experience. I will allow myself to recognize, feel and release grief in a different way. I will show up again, to this ceremony, when offered again. It was deeply transformative.
“YOU are the soul of the soul of the Universe, and your name is Love”- Rumi
Here is information of the three facilitators of this transformational ceremony. Those interested in diving deeper, they would be the ones to contact:
Barbara Largent http://www.barbaralargenthealing.com/
Shanti O’Connor http://rootedandopen.com/
Hillary Hurst http://hillary-hurst.com/
Thank you for sharing this Helen Lisle. I was thinking of going but basically chickened out..
I actually have 2 friends that went to her (Sobonfu) before her death that I wished I had consulted with. Next time ……..