We live in a culture that has forgotten how to grieve. And yet grief is such an essential part of human life. The practice of grieving is what allows us to continue to live fully after we’ve suffered a great loss. The medicine of grief, when fully experienced, is what allows us to ultimately heal and to continue our Earth walk with our spirits intact. Without grieving, parts of us can get stuck.
Just as we each carry griefs that are unique to our own lives and circumstances, we are also all the keepers of many shared collectives griefs. We can experience grief over large things, such as the loss of a loved one, as well over more subtle and silent things — the end of an era, or the death of a part of ourselves.
We are also experiencing a new kind of grief, being alive on this earth at this time, as we watch the world around us wane in many ways. More and more species are vanishing from our planet by the day. The once intact landscapes we’ve depended upon and been in relationship with for milenia are fast disappearing. This grief is perhaps the greatest of all, and it is ours to be in, and to learn to live with.
Grief rituals are at once deeply personal and totally universal. While each culture has rituals specific to the people and place to whom they belong, there are many common threads which bind them together and express something essential to our humanity. I encourage you to discover and explore the ways in which your own ancestors grieved and ritualized death and loss. This will be different for every reader. What I hope to offer you here are simple suggestions for ways to grieve that are uniquely your own and which arise out of someplace ancient and wise within you.
Grief is not linear. It does not begin and end in any kind of way that is predictable, reliable, or tidy. It is much more like a chime which sounds in the breeze — clearly audible at first, fading until it grows barely perceptible, and then sounding once again when the winds move through it just right. There is something sonorous about grief, when we allow it to move through us, cleansing our lives with its salty river of tears.
The funny thing about grief though, is that sometimes even when we ache to feel its touch upon our hearts, we cannot seem to let it in. Suppressed grief takes many forms. Often, we experience it instead as anxiety, mania, tension, anger, even arousal. However, if we can recognize that we are in a process of grieving, we can consciously engage in some of the following practices + rituals, call upon the herbal allies, and things will eventually begin to soften, shift, and heal.
Below is a short guide to both herbal allies and practical suggestions for navigating grief and supporting yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually through the process. I wrote this guide because I am grieving; because I have grieved. And I know that when you are in a process of grieving, you often need to be reminded of many things: that what you are feeling is normal, how best to care for yourself, and most importantly, that it will not last forever. My hope is that the short guide below will serve as both a point of departure and a place to which you can return at any time as you walk your own path of healing.