How to Have a Sorrow Party; Creating a New Culture of Grief

Blessings to you on this new moon. I hope you can take a moment to pause and rest during this sacred time.


This month I want to invite you to really drop into changing the way we Westerners deal with grief, or rather how we don’t. We must create a new culture of being with grief.


My mentor Elder Malidoma Somé said that grief is being with the discomfort of life. 


There’s so much that’s uncomfortable right now, would you agree? 


So how do we exist with all that’s uncomfortable? How do we befriend grief? How do we love what is when all we want to do is push what is far away from us?


My first thought is to gather with others. We cannot do this alone; we must use that social muscle or our social nervous systems. 


Yet many Westerners are experts at grieving in isolation. We cry in our cars, or in public bathrooms stalls.


Blessed memory Sobonfu Somé told a story at my first grief ritual. She’d recently moved to the USA and was in New York City. She heard a woman crying in the bathroom stall so she waited until she came out to make sure she was okay. When Sobonfu asked her, she smiled, perked up and replied, “I’m fine.” 


That’s when Sobonfu knew what her life’s mission was-to help Westerners grieve. And she did that with her Dagara Grief Ritual which she brought to the West. I’m so grateful I was able to attend three of these. She died in January of 2017, so I still continue to grieve for her. 

My mentor Francis Weller studied with Malidoma Somé, (Sobonfu’s ex-husband, also from the Dagara tribe in West Africa). 

Francis suggested that we have sorrow parties, so here’s some ideas about how to do that.

  • Invite a few friends over. 
  • Tell them to bring something that’s beautiful for an altar dedicated to beauty. 
  • Sit in a circle.
  • Place the altar to beauty in the center.
  • Invite each other to share your grief, followed by what makes you smile. 
  • Share a story about what you brought for the beauty altar.
  • Go around for as many rounds as you need. 
  • After each person shares, simply acknowledge them by saying thank you. 
  • Refrain from cross talk. The point is to be heard and to listen.
  • This isn’t about fixing. It’s about sharing what’s heavy on your hearts.
  • When you feel finished, find a way to bring an end to the sharing part of the sorrow party. You could clap three times in sync together or you could hold hands and hum. You could sing a simple song, or in the style of my dear Sobonfu, you could tell a dirty joke. She would always ask for someone to tell a dirty joke when we were done with the grief ritual. And then we would celebrate by eating together. 
  • So afterwards enjoy a simple meal together.
  • Keep it simple-maybe just have tea with berries and cream or a simple soup with bread and butter. 
  • No need to make this elaborate. You could even suggest that people bring something from their fridge or pantry-a half full jar of green olives, or what’s left in your cracker box. 
  • And then do this again in a month or two. 


You could also do this anytime you gather with someone. You could simply ask-how’s your grief or my favorite question from Sobonfu-have you grieved enough? 

Recently a friend of mine was on a corporate work call and was asked how she was doing. She was honest and said, “I’m so sad, I’m dealing with a medical situation for my kitty.”


The response from her co-worker surprised her. She said she appreciated her honesty because most people only respond with the standard, “I’m fine.” 


So this is also how we build a new culture of grief.

We start to share honestly with each other when things are challenging. Let’s stop hiding how we’re feeling when we’re struggling. Let’s stop fawning to fit in. (More on fawning in grief later…)


Will you join me?


My partner Michael and I recently traveled back east to visit his father who’s declining. And without going into all the details, the trip was shitty, like literally shitty, because we both got some kind of stomach flu. 


So the trip was truly awful. 


And that’s how I respond when people ask me how it went. 


There were some good times but it was mostly really hard.


Sometimes life doesn’t work out, sometimes we don’t get that ideal vacation. Actually that happens a lot more often than not, right? 


So, let’s find a better way of being with all that’s uncomfortable. 

Sorrow parties and being more transparent with how we’re feeling is a great start.


And let’s just slow down and take more time for simple pleasures. 


Say thank you to your water before you drink it.


Say thank you to the sun for giving us another day.


Take a moment to say thanks to the Earth below you for holding you 24/7 and giving you everything you have needed for your entire life. 


When I feel alone, I simply drop into the earth and remember that she is holding me, thus, I’m never alone. 

And if you need more support with this process of grief, reach out to me for a 1:1 session or hire me to help you create a grief ritual for your community. I love doing that.


And if you’d like some spiritual support and guidance from your Ancestors, I also do Cowry Shell Divination readings taught to me by my mentor Elder Malidoma Somé. 


Many blessings to you during this time. 


Grieve well, be well my friends, and here’s to changing the culture of grief one sorrow party at a time.

These are still grief filled times…and more and more I’m seeing that we need to build inner spiritual strength to withstand what’s happening. So let’s keep grieving well so we may be well.

Beth, your friend in grief.