“Grief does not necessarily come on demand. It is something that must be evoked through stories and images…to help pluck out that which causes tension, paralysis and distress. Every grief story has similar elements. This is why one story invites another.”
~Malidoma Patrice Somé~
Recently, I attended a 2-day grief intensive with Dr. Malidoma Some, an Africian Shaman of the Dagara community as part of my own personal grief work and to better learn how to work with the loss and grief of my clients and the community I live within.
During this 2-day intensive, we journeyed into and through Dagara wisdom- remembering that we are, each of us, going through a transformative process so we can live our life purpose. Through the healing interaction of ritual within community~ we opened ourselves to the release and reconciliation of those thoughts, emotions and energies- related to grieving- that have created a numbness, tension, or paralysis for us. Through this process, we allowed the life force to, once again, flow through us- unobstructed.
It was a powerful experience to be part of a community of like-minded people who were willing to open themselves to deeply grief and to be willing to hold the space for other’s to grieve. We built a container for a healing village on the land outside of Asheville into which we released our grief, sorrow and loss. We honored and grieved our ancestors that had transitioned so we could heal and release any old, unresolved issues.
This ritual was open to anyone who had experienced loss, transition or grief: from the death of loved ones; the loss of a job or friendship; deep feelings re: the state of affairs in one’s personal life, culture or planetary grief; honoring beginnings and ending within one’s stations of life: marriage, birth, divorce, illness, family situations, issues with children.
This level of grieving is unheard of in our Western world. We grieve our loss, primarily by ourselves, feeling that most people do not want to experience this process with us and that we should not burden our family and friends with our prolonged grief and personal loss.
Malidoma, says in indigenous Africa, one cannot conceive of a community that does not grieve. In his village, people cry every day. He says, “grief must be approached as a release of the tension created by separation and disconnection from someone or something that matters.”
The average person I see in my practice may be grieving the loss of a loved one years later after the original loss. I am not talking about having a memory of your beloved family member, friend or animal. I am talking about still holding on to deep, toxic emotions that lives in the tissues and cells of your body and mind and keep you stuck from moving forward to live your life.
Malidoma, says Western men in particular do not grieve fully the death/loss of others because they are told that men do not cry. Most of us have learned to tough it out and move on. To be too emotional is weakness.
He says, grief is not only expressed in tears, but in anger, rage, frustration, and sadness. Sadness and the feeling of heaviness within are symptomatic of a deep well of grief in the psychic underground.
Many people are beginning to see that there is danger in remaining stuck with rage, anger and sadness. They are the directionless vehicles of a grief that remains hidden. When these emotions are not allowed catharsis, they are left in a state of incompleteness.
To release deep emotions requires an outpouring of emotion and tears. You can not truly grieve within and remain composed without. Emotion is an outward phenomenon, and it cannot find its much –needed release if expressed only internally. Denied an outward express, grief grows stronger and organizes itself like a hurricane that can rise up and sweep us away.
It can and does become toxic in your body and manifest as illness, depression, addictions and suicide.
In Maldrone’s village, emotion is ritualized because it is seen as a sacred thing. If addressed within a sacred space, the emotion of grief can provide powerful relief and healing. At the time the feeling of loss arises there is an energy that demands ritual in order to allow reconciliation and the return of peace.
Grief takes us to the top of the hill and lets us walk back down slowly, peacefully. It helps release the person who is in sorrow and leads him or her toward acceptance of the phenomenon of death, separation and love. Malidrone Some author, Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community.