October rocked me in a good way.
It rocked me to my core and shuffled the foundation of how I work and how I am in the world in relation to grief. It rocked me so much and I dove in so deep that I’m still arriving back into this fast paced world I/we live in.
October rocked me so much and I dove in so deep that I’m still arriving back into this fast paced world I/we live in.
I studied with three of my main grief mentors. I started with a 4 day workshop on suicide grief with Alan Wolfelt. Then a day later I flew to San Francisco to attend a grief retreat with Francis Weller. (Weller wrote one of my all time favorite books about grief called “The Wild Edge of Sorrow.”) And I finished with a 5 day grief ritual with African Dagara elder, Malidoma Somé.
That’s a lot, so no wonder I’m still coming back! And I didn’t really give myself time to digest all that I experienced. In my opinion, here in the West we prioritize doing vs. the taking in, digesting and integrating.
With each training I dug a little deeper into the depths of my own grief. And this was a gift to myself – to take time away from my life to grieve.
You see, I live with what I call “chronic grief” since my partner has a spinal cord injury (SCI) and is paralyzed from the chest down. So for me, I was super grateful to have this time to tend to my own depths of sorrow as I tend to my client’s sorrows along with my own daily dose of grief.
My main take away is this – Grief work is soul work and soul work is slow work.
In order to do what grief asks us to do, we must slow down and take time to be with it. We need time to be with and integrate all our losses. If we do this, our grief can become a gem of wisdom. But we must slow down enough to notice it’s shine and take time to see its beauty and it’s offering to us.
Grief work is soul work and soul work is slow work.
In order to do what grief asks us to do, we must slow down and take time to be with it.
Yet this is a challenge as grief is also the one that strips us naked and leaves us in the dark cold and vulnerable, so it is so easy to ignore it and numb out.
We cannot do grief alone, we cannot do life alone either. In the States we live in this weird culture that is founded upon independence and taking pride in doing things all by ourselves.
After diving in with Malidoma, and being a part of our spontaneous village of about 30 people, and being outside to grieve with the 4 leggeds, two leggeds, the creepy crawlies, the winged ones and the rooted ones with the earth below us and rocks as our border, all of this was our village, and it also included our ancestors, so their presence was palpable; I really got a sense that I am a part of something much greater than my small independent Beth life.
I got this deep down into my bones and on a visceral level; I felt this knowing in my body, that I cannot do this alone and I am part of an interconnected interdependent world. So coming back into my modern Western life felt like a type of culture shock. Malidoma describes living in the West as like being in a highly radioactive environment. I get that now in a much deeper way.
So, I come away knowing that I simply want to tend to all other beings – human and non-human.
The first time I did grief ritual was with Sobonfu Somé, (also from the Dagara tribe in West Africa and she was married to Malidoma at one time). After doing grief ritual with her, I remember it was hard to come back and be in my office and do this thing called “psychotherapy.”
My practice as a therapist was also impacted deeply by Michael’s accident. I felt that I was no longer in a hierarchical relationship to my clients, but rather, I was right there along side them grieving and feeling and trying to make sense of all that is senseless.
I was humbly leveled by grief.
I felt as if the clinical rug of my practice was pulled out from under me. And I vowed to myself then that I’d find a way to bring in the elements of nature, ritual, creativity and other out of the box methods to my healing practice – for myself and my clients.
And so after diving deep with Malidoma…again this message is true.
After so much grief ritual in October you’d think I’d be emptied. But I wasn’t, I found actually that I had more grief to process. My grief opened me up to even more grief.
And then being back in my fast paced life, I was aware of my grief about that. I was grieving for the spontaneous community I was a part of for 4 days, 3 days, and 5 days in October. That’s 12 days of being immersed in the intimacy of grief with my peeps, so no wonder I have more to grieve about.
We cannot do this alone. I learned that from Sobonfu and now I learn that again from my new grief mentor, Malidoma – we so need the entire village.
I’ll be sharing more as I continue to digest all that I took in and experienced while on my grief immersion this past October.
So stay tuned for more ways to do this grief work which is really soul work which is slow work.
For starters you can devote time to your grief by doing these:
Make a date with nature
Tune out your devices and tune into your own inner navigation system
Move your body in the ways it wants to move
Pet yourself, your pets, or another human being (with consent of course)
Sip tea mindfully and really taste it
And as always…grieve well, be well.
And reach out to me if you need help slowing down and giving time to your grief. I’m here for you.