I am here at the ocean today to assist a grief ritual in the tradition of Sobonfu Some as she handed it down to us from her tribe, the Dagara peoples of Burkina Faso in West Africa. It has evolved, as magickal work will, alive in this time, with some elements of Martin Prechtel’s teachings on grief woven in. The people here in the West need grief work, as Sobonfu saw when she first visited America. This led to her life’s work of bringing the rituals here and teaching all that she could before her passing in 2017.
I am so grateful for her and the dear communities who carry on this work. We all need this kind of opportunity and support for cleansing in this go go go culture. Yes, that is my assumption - and it proves to be true, every ritual.
I have participated in and helped to facilitate grief rituals many times now. I have lost count. Having been through huge life changes, including a lot of loss and separation throughout the years of pandemic, I have been grieving. I really thought that I am not in need of this particular ritual this weekend. Grief has just been flowing now, I have been holding nothing back. I am open to all of my feelings moving. They have been moving, I am well.
Well, I was wrong. I live in this world. This world is at war, with itself, with its past, too many ‘sides’ with each other, and Russia’s war on Ukraine just kicked off last week.
Reluctance is present as I prepare for the long day. We arrive at 9am and go until sunset. I am on a heavy flow day of my moon cycle and I am setting up the water altar. I need to carry a lot of things down the tricky, half mile plus, trail to the beach after driving 1.5 hours to arrive on time. Early rising and a full day of work on a Saturday after a busy work week daunts me this morning. It is work I am not paid for but that I believe to be vital to human wellness, and that is what I live for. So, I do the work. I do it because I have people coming and know others who need this work and I want it to keep going. Therefore, I am committed to being part of making it happen.
It is cold and beautiful at the beach. She has been my soother of grief before I knew of these rituals. I come to her to cleanse and feel myself small in the expanse of the roaring, big picture of life with the face of the ocean. It is healing medicine for me, she puts me in my place. Here, I am small and my troubles are insignificant.
Today I come to support others in their grief, I think. It is true. I set up. I call in the energies of water, welcome the fluidity of being, the sacredness of our tears, we honor and give thanks for the blessings of the waters of the earth, and the remembrance of our fluid nature. I sit with others and listen to their stories of pain, grief, loss, of confusion around identity, belonging, and longing for love and healing for self and the world. Overflowing compassion moves me to feeling unconditional love for these courageous humans.
I share about the recent loss of my friend, a kind and gentle community member who took his own life a couple of weeks ago. My heart aches so desperately for people when they do not see any other way out of their pain but to take their own life. My heart mourns for those left behind to feel so much pain, grief, and guilt, wondering if there was something they could have done to help. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts and failed many vain attempts since I was 10 years old. It is deeply personal to me, to process this. It fuels a burning desire to help us move beyond this kind of giving up when there is still the possibility of a rich and joyful life yet to be lived. I live a rich and joyful life. I would have missed so much if I had given up.
The village is singing. We dive into the depths of the ritual after a half day of connection and preparation in many ways. People begin to come to the altar to express their grief, to cry, to open themselves to the ocean, to bury their sobbing faces in the sand, to angrily pound the earth in their frustration with the ails of humanity. I feel everyone so intensely, their sorrow, their confusion, the expressions of rage, shame, and not feeling loved, like they don't belong, are cared for, or accepted, and on, and on… I know their stories, and I don't, but I know others like them and I feel for them, for my beloveds, for those here, near, far, embodied and not…
I am flowing today… I am water… My heart is pulled by the expressions of grief around me. I soon find myself calling for someone to take my place in holding space and back me up as I fall to the earth in grief and weep. We stand in support of each other here. No one is alone here.
At first I weep for the people here- the sweet, courageous humans who dare to let their aches flow out. I cry for my loved ones whom I wish were here. I cry for the pain of so many beings who were treated badly, harmed, made to feel like something was wrong with them, taught that they were damaged or not worthy of love, care, and celebration. I am so angry at our world for all of the “supposed to be’s” that make people doubt and hate themselves and each other. I am so devastated that people, in this day and age, with such history to look at, would think that war is an option, that it is ok to bomb people and the earth, to indiscriminately take innocent lives and cause mass ruin. I find myself suddenly sick with the grief of so many people feeling so lost and angry and hopeless and hateful of one another. The grief begins to consume me. Tears and screams rage through me. I begin to sob uncontrollably, for those around me, for all of my loved ones near and far, for the earth, for humanity…
And then, sorrow for myself opens. I have lost love and life as I knew it with the devastating changes that this pandemic has heralded. I long to be loved and held in a way that I am not loved. My love is sad and far away. My Self has been working hard to be enough for myself, but still I crave… I cry out my heart's longing for my love to be able to meet me, to see me, to celebrate me and the love that I have for them. I ache, I tremble, I feel myself break open. I let the emotions, sounds, ocean waves, grains of sand, fluids from my face, dissolve the boundaries of “me”, along with the rational mind… Subconscious, visceral memories arise…
I find myself, a baby in my crib, wailing inconsolably, desperately needing to know that I am not alone, that someone cares. I need to be picked up, held, loved, fed… I feel so alone in the world, helpless and vulnerable. I feel that baby that I once was, with abused and abusive teenage parents with drug dependencies, ignoring me, leaving me to scream and cry… I find this frightened baby alive inside of myself, still. This early rejection and neglect shows up now when I feel ignored or neglected. I think, ‘I am not loved and i don't matter’. This is not my rational thinking brain, this is my subconscious, my wounded child, believing that I am still in mortal danger, helpless, hopeless, alone… It shows up beneath the surface of my conscious knowing, and causes me to shake and ache when I sense myself without care or the connection that I need. I have put myself into relationships that trigger this feeling for as long as I can remember. In the past, I have left them before they could leave me. I practiced with each departure, unconsciously owning my power of autonomy once I had it, as a young adult. Instead of feeling helpless, fought, I ran. I didn’t actually pick myself up, I just rebelled. I ran away from home. I ran from relationships where I didn't feel loved for who I was. In retrospect I think that's ok… but there is more to do to heal this kind of preverbal trauma. Ultimately, there are better ways to heal than choosing and blaming people whose wounds meet mine. I unexpectedly found one today.
Now, in this flash of seeing/ feeling baby me so despondent in my crib, with no one responding to my needs, I can see how that has set me up to feel this way when my needs are not met in relationships, to this very day and age. I see how I have subconsciously continued to try to heal that early experience by choosing people who cannot be there for me when I need/ want them to.
With this realization, I suddenly feel myself, sober and present in the moment again. I sit up abruptly, and gaze with eyes between worlds, out to the ocean. The tears abide, a state of near shock arises with this awakening. I am in a trance or communion with the ocean of life. I feel within me/her, great waves of change. The tides are turning. I am able to go to the roots of my issues on my own now and come back out. I used to think that I would go crazy and not come back if I let myself feel all of the things. But my energy body has grown strong over these years of working with being with what is. I have made choices to heal and grow even when it was the apparently harder thing to do and I did not want to, due to fear of pain, rejection, self-hatred, worthlessness… all that and then some...
I feel for those who have tried to love me even as they saw and ‘had to’ care for aspects of my apparently broken self. I feel for my beloveds who have tried to love me while in process with their own experiences of perceived, broken selves. We all have work to do. We live... The work is never over while we live and continue to love… Therefore also, I see and feel the rewards of loving. I am rich with gratitude for the beauty of life. I live in praise of the beauty of all that we grieve. I see how it makes us rich, our lives full with wonder and awe. We are small. We are everything,.. We are one great magnificent thing experiencing all that it is to be the many things. I am here for this. I am alive for this. I love expansively.
I let these reflections settle in for a bit. The song of the village calls me back. It seems as though, for the moment, I have gotten what I came for. I thank her, and move my body back to the village.
The ritual is long, deep, and wide. I come back to holding space with the hearts of others. I have picked myself up today. I have heard the cries of baby Dawn and picked her up and held her while we, somewhat shocked, looked at the ocean together and felt ourselves grown up... I have to admit, I was not especially kind or gentle in that moment of realization. I just did what needed to be done, like a sleep deprived caretaker at the end of a long shift. I sat in stunned silence, feeling whole, empty, overwhelmed, and saved by myself, as if from destruction. So, we just sat for a moment to integrate, and I returned to my service work.
On my drive home, I have the overwhelming feeling of neeeeding to be held, cuddled, rocked, squished, comforted. I want snuggles. I want love from outside of myself. I try to talk myself out of it, thinking a shower will do me good, and pillows all around me, like I do these days. I rack my mind for who I can reach out to for ‘safe’, no strings attached, available cuddles. I reach out to my love, they are alone and sad. They do not want to talk or cuddle. I am crestfallen but did not have my hopes too high, so i am alright. I reach out to a friend who was at the ritual and ask them for future cuddles. They happily say yes. This is somewhat soothing. I took a risk and asked for what I needed. Future cuddles count. I go home. I shower, I snuggle my pillows. I am sad, i am emptied out, i am lonely, i am rich with life and full with gratitude. This container of being that I am holds multitudes. The day was beautiful. The end of the ritual always has so much joy. Today was no exception. Everyone there is part of a village now. We are a community of spirit, we have moved energy together, we have changed worlds with healing presence… We are connected. It does fill one's heart so very much with love to empty out the grief, I think especially in community. I sigh, wistful yet content, and drift to sleep.
Days later I get snuggles, but there is no time to share stories or connect beyond the moment. I am grateful, and I still feel the lack of connection that I desire. I look forward to the weekend when life will allow us to drop in more deeply together. I am patient and spacious these days. As much as i crave love and affection all week, I can wait... My love lives with someone else and they are going through a lot. I have learned to be self reliant since losing my long term partnership and ushering my grown child into adulthood.
I am my own love and affection most of the time. I thought that I was doing good at being so.
But then, on Friday morning, when I was looking forward to landing in the arms of love that night, i get a call. The beloved explains to me that they need to give this night to someone else.
Suddenly, I feel that trigger response. I realize how upset my body is about this situation that my mind wants to say is not a big deal. I shake. My heart feels like it has a vice on it, it aches, my breath is shorter, my jaw is tight. I feel betrayed, again. Neglected, again. Not considered or prioritized, again. More stories; You didn't want to hold me last week when i needed it, you don't want to hold me tonight when i need it, you haven't wanted to, or been able to hold me through so much when i have needed it, although you have professed since the beginning the desire to hold and support me through all of the big things that i do in life - your ‘wanting to catch’ me... i need that.. I want that. Yet, you are not here. Again. Again, I realize, I am that baby alone in the bed. Neglected, abandoned, not cared for, left alone to cry in need and pain without anyone to hold them. I have chosen this situation.
For an entire day I shake and ache. I cannot make this pain go away. I question why I stay in this thing that hurts me so bad. Why do I stay with this person that has no capacity or desire to be present with me and fulfill my needs?
I sit with the possibility that I am perpetuating the pain, re-enacting my early life trauma by staying in this situation. I feel the urgent need to get out. I recognize this pattern of - every time something bad happens I think, ‘I need to get out’. When is it actually true? When am I running away from healing, and when am I honoring myself and stopping the insanity of perpetuating my early childhood wounds?
This morning I awaken slowly. I feel my soft, tender, fleshy body under my own hands. I think of my friend's baby for some reason. A full body, soothing sigh arises at the visceral memory of what a precious thing it is to hold an infant. Suddenly, here I am - holding myself. I am holding baby Dawn (my birth name). I am holding her gently, sweetly, with so much presence and loving compassion. I am holding her/ myself the way that I needed to be held from that crib, the way that I needed to be held after the grief ritual, the way that I wanted to be held every time I felt like my feelings or needs were not considered. And, the circle is complete. I hold my baby self. I hold my adult self. We receive each other as one in love and compassion.
I wonder if i could have done this on the beach, if i made myself go “back to work!”, back into action, too soon. It is definitely something I was taught to do. Keep pushing forward. This kind of survival mentality has definitely gotten me up off of floors of depression before, but i gleen also, how it has had me avoid this tenderness with myself. It makes sense that I wouldn't have given myself space for compassion, as I wasn't taught to. Now, I know, I slow… I give space for healing. Turns out, I am blessed to have this time alone today. Thank you, beloved.
I write now, and integrate ever deepening layers of healing. I am all one.. I am whole.. I am alone, and I am loved. I am sure that some time in life I may feel abandoned or neglected again. I can look at the circumstances, what my choices have been to get there, to stay there. I can see what I have chosen. I can see how consciousness works, to heal itself from trauma, to finish moving energy in whatever ways it didn't get to move with the original occurrence of wounding. I can choose to take different actions now, moving forward in my adult body - to give myself what I need, to reach out for support, to make whatever change in life needs to be made to heal the heart of the experience, to find myself whole, loved, held, supported. I am. I am whole, loved, held, supported - by myself, by the universe, by beloveds, and community of spirit.
I am grateful to remember and know this, no matter how many times I have to re-member again.
Learning and healing require vigilance and constancy. The work is worth it. The joy of self knowing and feeling at one with spirit is beyond words.
May all beings experience the blessings of self-reliance, community, peace, and compassion on their paths of growth and healing…