When we Grieve together, we heal together

Reflections on a community grief ritual

Luana Morales (luana@sustainmovements.org), MSC Community of Care Weaver 

On the last weekend of October, approaching the holy days of when the veil is thin and we honor our ancestors, a group MSC ecosystem beloveds gathered to bear witness to each other’s grief at Movement Ground Farm in Tiverton, RI in our first annual community grief ritual.

We were circle keepers, elders, youth workers, therapists, queer, farmers, disabled, organizers, activists, civil servants, artists, healers, and so many other roles and identities represented who are deeply committed to our collective healing and liberation. We were also tired and weary. 

We were those who hold space for others on the front lines and behind the scenes, who needed a turn getting held too. 

This powerful, important ritual of grief is passed down to us in the west by Elder Malidoma Somé and Sobonfu Somé of the Dagara Tradition in Burkina Faso in west Africa. In the Dagara tradition grief is a potent and transformational tool that supports us with healing from deep wounds, trauma, loss, and all that we have to grieve that has been unexpressed for lifetimes and often generations.

When we come together in community for the sacred practice of grieving we are able to be seen and share our stories of pain and suffering and find ourselves in a space where we can heal and find deeper connection with the earth and each other as central to the process.

I’m grateful for my Spiritual Mother and Initiated Elder, Lula Mae Christopher who I have been apprenticing in this ritual for many years now and the powerful and honey voiced healing force that is MawuLisa Thomas Adeyemo who also co held the ritual with me.

For 2 days, one on zoom and the second a full day on the farm, we learned where we hold grief in our bodies, how it shows up in our lives, and what part of our pain we were ready to release to the earth. In this ritual our pain is  a sacred offering to be composted so space for healing in our lives can be created. We shared stories, food, tears, and laughter. We danced in front of the drummers who were the heartbeat and soundtrack to our building the structures and altar as well as our  wailing and laughter. 

A few reflections from participants:

“From the elements, the land, ancestors, elders, healers, community I was able to release and shed an old part of me that needed to go. I also understand that I can’t and don’t need to do it alone.”

“From the nourishments, co-creation of our village, story telling and sharing was the magic of communal care. The attentiveness to the small and big details provided an abundance of care. Extremely grateful for the kindness and mutual care as well that participants had among each other and those that might have needed some extra care.”

“For every part of my body that hurt, I replaced it with the remembering of our village welcoming each other back to the fire after grieving. Or feeling grateful for the space to release.”

“This experience allowed me to lightly scratch the surface of my grief. You all as teachers and guides offered everything I could have asked for: perspective, wisdom, nurturing, humor, REALNESS, guidance, and love. I think this first experience opened me up to a next step and helped me identify some sources of where this is all coming from.”

“Though the farm/ activities were challenging to navigate through with mobility needs; knowing the hard work Luana & MawuLisa put forth to create an inclusive space where my grief was honored- allowed for me to push myself harder.”

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