Grief Mentors

Deep Wisdom from my Grief Mentors

As you read this, I’ll be deeply immersed in ritual in the village of Dano, Burkina Faso, West Africa! Dano is the village of my mentors—Sobonfu Somé and Elder Malidoma Patrice Somé. 

It’ll be a trip of a lifetime. There will be a deepening and widening of my work and offerings. And I excitedly await to offer these to you upon my retu
rn and integration. 

Over these past 10 years my grief has been a doorway to diving deeper into soul, spirit and ancestral work. And I expect this trip to both challenge and inspire me and my work going forward.

I’m utterly grateful for my grief— the accident of my partner Michael. It changed everything and eventually illuminated my path. 

It was grief that brought me to the indigenous technologies of the Dagara people from Burkina Faso. The grief rituals I did with Sobonfu helped me the most with the amount of grief I had.

She taught me how to befriend grief. Her life’s mission was to teach Westerners how to grieve, because clearly we don’t know how. Although, this is changing now and I’m grateful to be alive to witness this.

I want to thank each one of you for being here with me; we all have a part to do grief better. When we do grief better, we teach others by example. 


Malidoma also taught me how to be with grief as I was blessed to do one grief ritual with him. He also taught me how to be a Cowry Shell Diviner. It was truly an honor to be in his last divination class.

I found both of them shortly before they died. Sobonfu died in January of 2017 and Malidoma died in December of 2021. I grieve for them to this day as I had wanted to study with both of them to continue my studies of indigenous African wisdom. They planted a seed within me to deepen my practices from my own roots. 

So, this trip to Africa is a time for me to give homage to them—the ones whose wisdom helped me to wake up to my ancestral wisdom. It will be a trip of rituals and connection to the land and the people of Dano.

Here’s a bit of what I learned from them; may it help you in your grief journey:


  1. You cannot grieve alone; find your peeps. You can only truly move grief with others. 
  2. You need someone from the village to have your back, like literally stand behind you while you’re grieving. That way you know you can emote enough. You can let out your emotions and  reach deep into the bottom corners of your lungs and clear it out.
  3. If you don’t have people to support you, call on your ancestors. Demand that they show up to help you. Ask them to get to work. Tell them how your heart aches.
  4. Call on the support of Nature-the trees, rocks, plants and the Earth below you that holds you always. Put your feet on the Earth. Immerse yourself in Nature. Take time to listen to the trees.
  5. Call on Water, Water represents peace and reconciliation. Grief is a call to reconcile the conflict in our hearts. Grief isn’t something we recover from, rather, it’s an alchemical process that needs time and attention. You’re in the midst of great change; you’re integrating who you were with who you are now.
  6. Allow your emotions to flow, emote-rage, scream, cry, or sit and be numb. Know that this is normal and so very human to be in such a state of pain. Grief hurts. Express it.
  7. Tend to your body. Be in water often, drink water. Go to the ocean to grieve if you’re lucky to live near her. Or go to a body of water near you-a small creek or a wide river and listen to their messages; let it inspire you to let your emotions flow.

Quotes from my time with Sobonfu:

“All we need to do is hold hands and go through it.”

“We suffer because there is no community in this modern world.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with community no longer being human.”

“We go crazy showing our happy faces all the time. Stop playing nice! And teach the children to grieve.”

“Expression of grief is not bad. If we hold it and not express it, it’s toxic and eats at the joy in our life.”

“Anytime you meet someone new, an old self has to die in order to make room for the new.”

“Avoiding grief doesn’t work. To be human and be alive is to feel. There’s nothing wrong with feeling, only when it’s not allowed to move.”

From my time with Malidoma:

“Grief is course correction.”

“Grief is staying with the discomfort of life.”

“The failure to express grief is the degradation of the world.”

“Grief has no privacy; it’s not personal.”

“We live in a culture that breeds violence because we do not grieve. Grieving is not a privilege, it’s a duty.”

“Emotions in safe deposit boxes? No, they are meant to be shared.”

“Grief is technologically advanced. When we grieve together it highlights the human gifts where the sacred is at work. Inside the sacred there’s a different chemistry, it elevates and expands you. It creates a field and breaks a paradigm.”

“It’s not okay to have grief grief grief. We need the contrary people—we need to keep the steam at a humanly bearable level; joy busts a hole through grief.”

That reminds me of my favorite saying from Sobonfu: “We need to clear the pipes of grief to let joy flow.”


So let’s open up the grief pipes my dears. 

And stay tuned, I bet you there’ll be a Dagara Grief Ritual in my near future and y’all are invited…who’s ready?

I am because writing this opened up that pipe; my tears are flowing. Thank you dear ones. Ashé.