Sacred Work of Grief Tending

"Drink enough of the sweet, strong mead of grief and love for being alive and it isn't long before you're sending a trembling, life-soaked greeting out to everything that came before you and to everything that will follow, a kind of love letter to the Big Story." -Stephen Jenksinson in "Die Wise"

When I first read these words in Stephen Jenkinson's Manifesto for Sanity and Soul I felt a deep resonance within my own being. I found myself reading this sentence over and over again and then called my girlfriend to read it to her with a felt sensation of a warm and firery passion upwhelling in my heart.

I was a spiritual and imaginative child always sensing into the the wonder and magicalness of the created world and the human heart. I am still captivated by wonder and beauty. Maybe this has something to do with why I have always felt a companioning with sorrow.  I experience myself as a person who feels a lot of what is happening in my environment. I see senstivity as a type of intelligence as being sensitive impies we are receiving or taking in various forms of information. However, this can also be overwhelming and we can form naratives based on our experiences and nervous system responses. As I sense into the ocean of grief within, I can witness my individual thread and see how it is connected to my lineage and the collective.  We are not islands, and what happened before us and what is happening now has an impact on us.

Connected to my grief is a longing for the world to show up differently and with this, is an invitation for me to deeply inhabit my dignity as a human being. I love reading books that offer a perennial and Indigenous wisdom perspective as it points me to the possibilities of paradigms outside of white/patriarchal "power over" ways of being and relating. The sorrow of how I have a harsh inner voice that likes to "power over," my more vulnerable parts and can shy away from taking up space. Apprenticing my grief connects me to not only my individual grief, but also the unmet grief and trauma in my own family lineage.  My grief is an expression of my authenticity. Grief can feel wild and yet it is a great teacher that can give birth to a larger capacity of holding new ways of being within myself, others, and creation. Grief is a teacher of the beauty of my heart, what it loves, and what it longs for. I see it as a potential vesself for the dreaming earth to birth new ways of seeing and being.

I was interested in grief work early in my career as a therapist. When I came on staff of a local wisdom school and was designing a curriculum for the class "Deep Healing," I intuitvely knew  grief tending needed to be included.  It was during this time I was introduced to the work of Francis Weller and read his book "The Wild Edge of Sorrow."  His gates of grief put a language to what, up until that point I had felt, but not known to name. See my colleague's short description here of the 5 gates. I had my class watch this 13 min video of Francis share about his work and the 5 Gates.

"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."
-Francis Weller



Holding by Summer

My heart's wisdom recognizes the interconnectedness between embracing our grief and experiencing joy. The more we allow ourselves to fully engage with our grief, the more capacity we have to fully embrace joy. Through my work in a private therapeutic practice, I have witnessed firsthand how we tend to keep our grief hidden in our individualistic culture. We often apologize for shedding tears, even with clients who are seeking our support.

Sacred Grief. Sacred Rage. Sacred Play residential grief retreat

Sacred Grief. Sacred Rage. Sacred Play Residential Grief Retreat at Haw River State Park

While we do have communal rituals like funerals and support groups for specific losses, such as relationships or infertility, we lack regular communal rituals that help us process our daily grief. For many of us, this type of practice may seem radical. Francis Weller suggests that regular grief rituals are essential for the well-being of our souls, providing a nourishment that material possessions cannot fulfill.

As I delved into the teachings of Elder Malidoma Some from Burkina Faso and other Indigenous wisdom keepers, I was struck by the absence of grief rituals in my culture. This realization led me into participation in Malidoma's elemental ritual intensive and training with Francis Weller (who also worked with Malidoma Some). My colleague and friend, Samantha Dirosa and I met through our mutual love and commitment to this work.

It has been a honor and homecoming to embrace this aspect of my calling. Since 2021, we have been co-facilitating both online and in-person rituals and grief retreats.  Each time I come away with the gift of experiencing the paradox of bearing witness to deep pain and also experiencing profound beauty. Honoring and giving space to the authenticity of our hearts is where we  find our alivesness and ourselves held within a Larger Mystery.

Our statement on diversity and cultural appropriation:

As facilitators, our intention is to create an inclusive space that honors all cultures and ethnicities. However, as white-bodied, cisgender women, we recognize the privilege and systemic advantages inherent in our identities. We acknowledge the racial lenses and gendered systems that have shaped our experiences and perspectives, understanding that they differ significantly from those of BIPOC individuals. We are dedicated to actively listening, learning, and unlearning, and we are committed to ongoing growth in this area.

In our work, we approach any rituals, songs, or practices from non-dominant cultures with deep respect and gratitude. They have been shared and gifted with blessings to aid in our collective healing. We are committed to acknowledging and honoring the sources of these practices, recognizing the responsibility that comes with engaging with them. May our collective grief cry serve as a catalyst for change and liberation, as we work towards dismantling oppressive systems and creating a world where all beings can thrive.

To learn more about coming home to the authenticity of your heart through individual and community based grief tending rituals click the link here.

Embodied Intelligence Mission Statement

Embodied Intelligence mission is to create a safe and supportive space and community where we can examine old limiting narratives and re imagine, explore, and discover for ourselves a story where LOVE is the protagonist.

At Embodied Intelligence, we use a variety of tools and practices, and draw upon perennial wisdom traditions to invite you into this Great Love Story.

With like hearted seekers we explore the barriers within us and welcome home our shadow and orphaned parts within. We’ll bravely look at what we project onto others, and we’ll examine our world view, including our limiting beliefs and old stories that no longer serve us. We will invite you to uncover a fierce orientation that’s rooted in self-love.

We’ll help you tap into yourself, into your vulnerable inner space, and you’ll begin to experience the reality of what Wisdom Traditions have been saying all along: LOVE is our greatest reality.

As you begin to reorient to this story through an attuned body, receptive heart, and open mind, we’ll move through the challenges of our time with awareness and engaged action. We’ll become co-creative with this radical protagonist that is Love. We’ll unearth possibility and give voice to this force, allowing it to move through us out into the world, inhabiting the dignity of our being in alignment with all of creation.

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