Collective Grief

I want to share a dream I had last week. I only had a short glimpse of it but the effects of it are still impacting me today.


I see a human heart. It is breaking, it is hurt. It needs lots of care and help. At first it’s just one heart, but then it becomes the world’s heart. It is the heart of humanity and it’s in open heart surgery and all hands were on deck to care and tend to it.


The collective heart was having surgery! I made the following collage to process this…



This dream came from what’s been heavy on my heart-the war between Israel and Hamas and all the fallout of this conflict on all the innocent people that inhabit that area-the Israeli people and the Palestinians. And my heart is breaking open into a billion pieces.


How is your heart these days? And how are you tending to the collective heart?


It has me thinking more about collective grief. My mentor Sobonfu Somé, from the Dagara peoples of West Africa who taught Westerners how to grieve. She said all grief is collective or communal grief. No grief is left to one person to carry it alone. Only Westerners do grief alone and she gave it a term- “Individual grief.”


She went on to say that collective or communal grief is the grief we cannot deny. It is the horrific events that happen to a community or a group of people like 911, natural disasters, suicide, homicide, sexual abuse, loss of a child, divorce, war.


It’s what is happening right now in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. It is the genocide being carried out in front of our eyes that we see through the lens of the news and social media. I heard that for some reason this is the first time we are able to see and know so much about what’s happening in the war zone than we ever have in the past.


We simply cannot process this alone. We must come together to express our grief and to encourage each other to respond in whatever way feels right for us.

In her book, Finding Refuge, Heart Work for Healing Collective Grief, Michelle Cassandra Johnson tells us to ask ourselves and each other in times like these-how’s your heart, is your heart breaking? Pay attention to your heartbreak and keep it open even when it’s breaking. 


There is so much more I could share about this. I found this article to be helpful about tending to our collective grief by Thomas Hübl


But for now I want to tell you about a new in-person offering to help with our breaking hearts.


I’m a part of the grief tenders in my community. We’ve been gathering by the fire at Christiane Pelmas’s Kirkja for the past few months. We check in, cry, sing, pray and laugh. I’ve wanted to hold space for those who hold space for the grief of others. If you’re a grief tender and want to come, reach out to me.


A few of us are starting a collaboration to host a monthly grief ritual for the community. My friend and fellow grief tender, Siobhan Asgharzadeh, has put out the invitation to come together to hold space for all the collective grief right now. There’s so much grief; we need to come together to bear witness to it.


Our first one is this Friday, December 8th from 5-9pm. We will gather at the Lyons library and hold space for you to grieve.


You will be held by Siobhan, Wendy Kaas, myself and a few other grief tenders.


This event is by donation, so no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Any donations given will be used for any supplies needed for the event and then the rest will be given to a local non-profit organization to give back to the community.


If you are interested in coming, please contact Siobhan at livingceremony@gmail.com to register.


In the first hour we will be creative as we warm up to each other and our grief. Then we will speak briefly about the different kinds of grief according to our mentors-Francis Weller, Elder Malidoma Somé, Sobonfu Somé, and Martín Prechtel. Then we will invite you to grieve as poetry is read and music is played to help you deepen into your grief. You may want to move or dance your grief or just be still. Please bring a yoga mat, pillows or a blanket to sit on. Bring your journal if you like to process that way. Also, bring a few small pebbles or rocks. We will be grieving with the element of water. It will not be a grief process group, rather it is a space for you to feel and emote your grief in big or subtle ways with community.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me.

And please spread the word as we want to have these rituals once a month. The next one will be in January on the full moon possibly. I’ll send the date soon.


In the meantime, please tend to your tender hearts-rest, eat well, gather to grieve with others. Reach out if you need to process what’s going on in the world, in the Middle East. Take breaks from the news and be aware of that privilege to be able to tune it out. Take action, call your senators, research war resistance tax. Make something with your hands-bake bread, make art or learn now to knit. Yesterday I saw two posts about research talking about how we feel better if we use our hands to make things. And as always, get outside in nature. Find beauty even when your heart is breaking, because that’s when we need it the most.