I'll be honest. I'm a licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration Trainer and Consultant, and grief scared me. My grief scared me. It scared me so much I locked it up inside, and marveled at people who could just cry - like that! - when they felt like it. But the thought of letting it out was scary too. My grief out in the world? Who could hold that for me? What if it never stopped? What if it was too big?
I went to a grief ritual because my grief scared me. I figured, if my grief scared me, then grief probably scared other people too, and I wanted to find my way through.
I know that all emotions contain information, and once we receive the information, the emotions recede. Even though it scared me, I was going to a place where it was safe to listen to my grief.
Throughout the morning, we sang songs and shared bits about ourselves and our grief. Many people were grieving loved ones, either passed on or irrevocably changed, but people were also grieving cats, trees, water, wildlife, and lost chances. The scope and breadth of the grief felt vast.
After lunch we decorated the grief altar. It was robed in blue, with pictures and mementos of the cause of our grief crowded onto every space and corner, even hanging off the sides and pinned to the front. We spread out rugs, mats, and pillows in front.
The grief ritual was becoming more real, and I could feel my grief rising within me.
When the ritual started, we formed a village, standing just outside of the shrine, and sang a song we'd learned together. We sang this song as people left the village, and stepped into the shrine to grieve. We sang this song as people wailed and shook and keened, and then we kept singing as we welcomed them back to the village.
When I stepped forward to grieve, (rather, when grief moved me to my knees) I lost a sense of time passing and only experienced the now of full-body emotion ripping out of me. I had watched others do this, and I knew the village could hold my grief, as it had held that of the others. I trusted this village we'd created in one morning, and I understood that people are far more resilient than they think.
At the end of the day, I'd stood and sung and grieved for two hours, and rather than the pregnant feel of the morning, or feeling exhausted and wrung out, I felt washed clean. I had by no means accessed all of my grief, but I don't know that you can ever release it completely.
Since this ritual, some things have shifted for me. I understand grief as a normal process that our bodies inherently know how to do, and that it's a beautiful thing.
I learned that we are all linked by sorrow, that the vulnerability of grief creates community and shared human experience, and that the human body knows how to grieve, if you let it. I learned too that there is a grateful joy at having known the person/place/thing you are grieving.