Navigating Collective Grief in 2024

2024 is off to a rough start-both personally and collectively. I want to offer some words of support around the collective grief and how to be with the sorrows of the world.

I’ve been falling into the pit of despair even though I‘ve been earnestly practicing this from my grief mentor Francis Weller: “The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair.”

I am not cynical, I’m just heartbroken to the point of despair and hopelessness because the weight of the sorrows of the world is simply too much to hold. My heart breaks every day there is no permanent ceasefire for Palestine/Israel. I have felt defeated, aghast, full of grief, sad, confused, and angry.

I saw a post the other day by Rachael Maddox that said, “There is no amount of individual somatic therapy that will be enough to mend the wounds of this genocide for the people of Gaza.” And that is so utterly true.


We will have to do this work together, we cannot do it alone. How many grief rituals will it take to reconcile these atrocities and the other injustices happening all over the world? It’s not just happening in Palestine, it’s happening in Sudan, Congo, Ukraine, etc.  AND it has happened on this land I live upon here on Turtle Island.


I would love to ask my mentor Sobonfu Somé-how do we grieve for something so immense? She would most likely say these times are full of complex and compounded grief.

Complex grief requires the involvement of community where everyone takes responsibility. She named examples of this-natural disasters, 9/11, suicide, homicide, sexual abuse, loss of a child, divorce, war. She said, “You need the community to put it to rest. If we don’t welcome home our soldiers home from war, it will show up in our psyche as PTSD. You wake up to a war zone-it’s not about the person, it’s about not welcoming home their souls. They don’t live at home in themselves, they don’t live at home in their spirits.”

She went on to explain that compounded grief is too close to our proximity to grasp, so it goes from shock to shock to shock. It is multiple losses, losses piling on more losses. So you go into shock and cannot process it. If we digest it all at once, we’ll die. We will split from our bodies to survive. It is necessary to do this because it’s not safe to live in our spirit.

She is talking about trauma.

“Not all grief has trauma, but all trauma has grief.” -Francis Weller

So what do we do now? How do we keep going when we are being stretched large by the sorrows of the world with too much trauma to process?


We must find our peeps and come together to grieve and be witnessed. I strive to change the culture of grief and cultivate soulful living. I’m part of the Soulful Life Convivium held by four lovely humans-Holly Truhlar, Erin Geesaman Rabke, Carl Rabke and Alexandre Jodun. We are a steady drumbeat of community and we show up weekly to witness each other, learn about soul practices, and how to keep our hearts open in a world that is so utterly broken.

This online group started three years ago with Francis Weller. We are in transition now because he is on sabbatical and hopefully writing another amazing book. His book, “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” is, in my opinion, one of the best books about grief. I feel honored to have had him as our teacher for the past few years. And now without him, we are at a threshold of transition. Humanity also seems to be at a threshold as we continue to navigate these mounting sorrows of the world.

We recently did a guided visualization in the convivium where we were asked to see a threshold and interact with it. Here’s what I saw, I share with you in case it’s helpful…

I saw a huge rock wall, a cliff that went up for about a mile. I was at the bottom of a long staircase built into it. It was wet because of the relentless rain, yet beautiful. Walking up I felt daunted by the task to climb up alone. I looked down near my feet and saw green soft moss growing in and amongst the rocks. I bent down to say hello and thank it for its beauty. And then suddenly I was scooped up by a beautiful dragon that has been a dear friend and an ally since my partner’s accident back in 2012. So I got on her back, touched her magenta and purple scales and flew up into the skies above the clouds to where we could see the sun. We could see a larger perspective from there. I then turned around and saw all my grandmothers on dragons! They were following and supporting us. Their presence was a balm for my aching heart as I felt their ancestral support. 


The lesson here with this small story is to pendulate between the small moss on the ground and then go up to see a larger perspective. Also look behind you for who has your back. Call on your own ancestors…they too have known this despair and atrocities that humans can do to each other. They too have known genocide.


So come back to the ground and get intimate with it. Look at the small details and love the beauty there. Then go wide and ask-what can I do, where can I focus my resources, where can I help humanity at this time?


Do what you can to help the world in some way whether it be signing petitions, calling representatives, donating money if you’re able to, or doing research about what is going on in Palestine/Israel, Congo, Sudan, etc. Then go narrow-return to your local watering hole, your community. What can I do to help others near me? For me it’s helping my partner, my cat, or my neighbors. Maybe it’s simply being more kind to strangers in a time where the stretch between grief and gratitude seems to be tugging at all of us.


It also means gathering together to grieve with community and then come back to your own self care practices. Grief ritual is community care. Then ground it in your personal practices-your tether to your body. Do the thing that brings you a sense of groundedness and joy. Could be as simple as mindfully placing your feet on the ground or just stopping for a moment to become aware of your breath.


Let me know how you are staying sane in this world these days. And if any of you would like to know more about the convivium, please ask me. They are inviting new members to join within the next few weeks.

I’m part of a grief tenders community and we are co-holding community grief rituals every other month in Lyons, Colorado. Please join us for the next one if you can. This is donation based, after the cost of materials for the ritual are paid, the rest will go to local non-profits who need it.