grief, gift & gratitude: a healing time

Grief is a threshold, an invitation into deeper mystery and greater wisdom.

                                                                                                                                   Paintings by amy judd

                                                                                                                                   Paintings by amy judd

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

David Whyte


"The grief and sense of loss that we often attribute   to a failure in our personality, is actually a  feeling of emptiness  where a beautiful and strange otherness should have been encountered.”
                                       Paul Shepard 

You know sometimes you long for something and you don't exactly know what it is. You look to see, to feel, to understand, to name it to no avail: just this consistent, elusive longing in a void of meaning and matter. 

In that void are the things most precious to us humans, things most of us have lost contact with that are essential to our existence: a sense of community & belonging, knowing one's place and service in the web of life, being welcomed into full acceptance of who we are, a sense of wellbeing as part of Creation, being in touch with our Soul and the Mystery, a deep connection with and an appreciation of Mother Earth, being held and taught by elders, honoring our ancestors, a sense of gratitude for being alive...

The not-irreversible or let's say temporary loss of these beautiful ways that hold the fabric of our humanity together, accompanied by the essential challenges of being alive and personal losses, cause an immense magnitude of suffering for us and for every living being that come into relation with us humans. Day in day out we live with this burden whether we know it or not. It's consistently there, like the sunshine, like the bread on your table, like the longing in your heart. 

In the absence of indigenous (originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native) wisdom and practices which have developed over the millennia and social structures that ensured the passing on of these vital constituents of a dignified, wholesome and meaningful human life, we either choose to numb and distract ourselves (by a myriad of addictions) or we choose to forget (because it's too much to bear alone) or we find ourselves bewildered with an overwhelming sense of loss and grief. 

Over numbness, I choose the path of grief. 

“Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life-force. It is riddled with energy, an acknowledgment of the erotic coupling with another soul, whether human, animal, plant or ecosystem. It is not a state of deadness or emotional flatness. Grief is alive, wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated. It resists the demands to remain passive and still. We move in jangled, unsettled and riotous ways when grief takes hold of us. It is truly an emotion that rises from soul.”

-Francis Weller, “Entering the Healing Ground”

Like most of us, I grew up 'emotionally illiterate'; I was not encouraged to allow myself to "feel", own and express my emotions in a contained way. Instead, I learned to keep the volume down, to shut down, to swallow my pain and anger; in fact I became an emotional eater, that is I ate to numb myself whenever I felt an uncomfortable emotion rising within me. Not being able to express how I felt created a deep sense of loneliness and disconnection from others. I learned to disown my emotions and project them onto others as a way of dealing with shame, fear and sorrow. 

"There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness, some sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive. Through this, I have come to have a lasting faith in grief." 
Francis Weller 

When I finally sat down and faced my personal pain around abandonment, disconnection, loneliness, body, relationships, only then I realized the healing power hidden in the practice of grief. As much as it is part of human condition, grief is also a practice, a skill to be re-membered and learned. I wish there were more guidance early on in my life to follow the sacred path of grief so I could have attended and dismantled the numbness that I wore like a uniform. 

My own woundedness led the way for me to discover the grief sunk into my body and psyche, privately, but actually the practice of grief is not meant to be processed alone. When people lived in community, closer to nature and her ways, they had (and some still do) practices and rituals to process grief collectively. Plus, nothing is really personal, nothing is unique to you alone and when you dig deep enough and look a little further than your hoop with inquiring eyes, you would see that most of our individual wounds and traumas are directly connected to the whole and larger systemic degeneration or archetypal human condition which goes all the way to the core wound of humanity perhaps: the illusion of separation.  
If that is so, wouldn't it be more sane and commonsensical to hold and navigate grief together? 

"Grief has always been communal, always been shared and consequently has traditionally been regarded as a sacred process. Too often in modern times our grief becomes private, carrying an invisible mantle of shame forcing our sorrow underground, hidden from the eyes that would offer healing. We must restore the conversation we need to have concerning the place of grief in our lives. Each of us must undertake an apprenticeship with loss."
Francis Weller

To shake off our numbness and forgetfulness - the anesthesia and amnesia as Francis Weller calls it, two great sins of our time - we need to face our losses and grieve in a sacred manner. And we can only do this together, in each other's company, in circles as sacred containers of trust and intimacy, in community where we witness one another, in ceremony when grief is poured as prayer and medicine for the earth, for the ancestors, for the unhealed wounds of humanity. We need to be adamant about this because grief is a threshold, an invitation into deeper mystery and greater wisdom, into remembrance who we are and what we love. On the other side of the honoring of our grief lies the authentic joy of being, an ecstatic love of life and a luminous sense of aliveness and gratitude.
And this is the gift hidden, invisible to the unfaithful, only to be revealed after placing our grief on the holy altar of life. 

"If there is a way for everyone to grieve openly, I believe it will also diminish the blaming and shaming that goes on between the races. When you are in the presence of someone grieving you don’t see color anymore, it is a universal language. We are all in pain. There is no need to blame others. Blame, shame, and guilt come from being unable to express our grief properly. How can we pretend to be happy, peaceful and loving when we have so much pain and grief?"
Sobonfu Some

“When you have two centuries of people who have not properly grieved the things that they have lost, the grief shows up as ghosts that inhabit their grandchildren. These “ghosts” can also manifest as disease in the form of tumors, which the Maya refer to as “solidified tears,” or in the form of behavioral issues and depression. This collected unexpressed energy is the long-held grief of our ancestors manifesting itself and there is work that can be done to liberate this energy so we can heal from the trauma of loss, war, and suffering.”
Martin Prechtel


I've had my own share of private grief but it is the collective grief washing over us in my homeland right now that is urging me to look at this issue tenderly, faithfully and urgently. The escalating polarity and violence in society is spiraling into a vicious circle at an alarming speed.
We are "haunted by the ghost structures of old damage*".
Everything in our collective history - every wound, every trauma, every tragedy - that is untended, denied, neglected, left incomplete, rejected, forgotten and turned away from is pushing to the surface and penetrating our attention right this moment. 
I hear the ancestors calling louder and louder every day. 
Our collective heart is breaking open. 
If we kneel down by the fire of grief together and FEEL, remember what wants to be remembered,
acknowledge what wants to be acknowledged, 
see what wants to become visible and,
listen to what wants to be heard,
there is a strong possibility we will harvest the gifts of forgiveness, compassion, gratitude and reverence for Life and each other. 

The land and the ancestors are demanding it, let's see whether we, Anatolian peoples, are able to honor them. 

"The idea is to go there and come back. Alive. And it takes people to help you with that. It takes a VILLAGE."
Martin Prechtel

* Quoted from "Blessing" by John O'Donohue

Wisdom on Grief

with gratitude to

Sobonfu Some -
Malidome Some - 
Francis Weller -
Stephen Jenkinson -
Martin Prechtel -