A poignant memory of days gone by, the hope for a peaceful death as a parent lays weary and ill,
the tragedy of innocent life cut short by the blades of fear and loathing...moments such as these, and so many
more, pull at our heartstrings and release the dam of tears; tears, the very salt and water of our lives,
the essence of that which we all share as children of Earth and starry Heaven.
Tears are a cleansing of the soul. In the pouring of grief made manifest through tears, we affirm our shared human experience, we affirm the love of those who have passed from this life, we affirm the loss that we have endured, be it loss of life, of hope, of faith, of house or home, of relationships, of work or livelihood; and in affirming all of this when we let loose the wellspring of tears, we affirm that we yet live.
No matter the pain, the heartbreak, the burden or the loss, we yet remain steadfast to carry the torch of hope ever higher, even if we need to first set ourselves down Upon the cool, firm ground to find our center again In the flowing of tears, or however we might let our emotions pour forth, when we allow ourselves to fully experience and pass through grief, we are at that moment our most human selves, vulnerable yet empowered in true feeling,true experience.
I use the example of tears as it is an almost universal experience, but that is not to say that tears are the only expression of grief. Humans, as products of the diversity of our world, express ourselves and experience deep emotion.
It is in allowing ourselves to explore those deep feelings, that gets us to the root cause of them and enables us to mature in wisdom and grace.
In those moments when we find ourselves most broken or lost, we may find within ourselves the strength to continue to live our lives most fully, and in that continuance, all of our pain, our loss, our bone-deep sadness gives way to the great song of life, for life transmutes all things, good or ill, into new life, new creation, a new song.
So, how might we create that space to delve into our own selves and those experiences through which we have lived? How might we manage our grief in tune with the chorus of life? Let us briefly explore three simple techniques of embracing and transmuting our grief:
Take it to the Waters -- Often times we may find ourselves unable to allow the tears to flow out of a sense of needing to remain “in control”, I would invite you then to find a quiet place to stroll alongside a stream, brook, or other body of gently flowing water you find soothing. Walk along it, through it. Sit beside the waters and submerge your feet, your hands. Allow yourself to be in the moment entirely and just feel the waters move around you and with you. As you feel the waters of that brook or stream, allow yourself to reflect on your grief, to feel it as you feel the water, and to pour it through your body back into the Great Cycle that is the life of water, and as you empty yourself of that grief or pain, breathe deeply of the vivacity of the life of the stream and allow it to nurture your spirit.
Should you have no local brook to meander with, or if you might seek a warmer form of transformation, I would invite then to take your grief to the fires. Fire is the essence of physical and spiritual transmutation and by its very light it claims for us sacred space in the darkness of our world. Light a candle and prepare a fireproof bowl, or if possible and desired, build up a small campfire in a suitable, safe place. Welcome the fire into being, take some time to ponder it’s dancing flames and shining embers. As you share space and time with the flames, look through them and ponder your circumstances, experiences, associated feelings. Take with you pen and paper and engrave on the page the pain of your heart as fully as you are able, pour out the words and sit with them, and when they are fully out of you and you are ready to release that grief or pain, cast it into the flames (or light it with the candle, and gently toss it into the bowl) and allow the fire to transform what was into the potential for a brighter tomorrow. Tend the flames for a quiet time, and in tending the flames, you may well tend your soul.
The last technique I offer you is this: Take it to the ancestors. Many of us have had beloved grandparents, great-aunts or uncles, cousins, or dear friends who have crossed through the veil the covers the divide between life and death and life renewed. If you have a quiet place with photos of your dearly departed, or perhaps visiting the burial place of a particular ancestor with whom you were close, take time to sit with and talk out all of your experiences and be open to quiet moments where they may just whisper support or advice, or simply hold you in a blessing embrace. In my own life, when I have been under great stress or grief, I often find myself visiting to grave of my maternal great-grandparents, bringing with me a pipe and cherry tobacco as a touchstone and offering for them. I’ll sit beside their stone and pour out my story, my experience to them, talking away just as if we were visiting over tea like we would have before their passing. Whether their spirits hear it or not, it has always left my heart lighter and the way forward a little clearer.
These are only suggestions of a few potential tools that may help you process your grief as they have helped me in times past, but know that we are a species as diverse as the leaves of the forest and therefore we each experience these emotions in our own, unique ways. We each carry within us wounds or sorrows, but with what has been broken within ourselves, or in the world around us, what new beauty might we inspire and nurture? As we endure this season of darkness, I implore you to allow yourself the space and time to sit with and fully experience whatever your pain or grief may be, and to pass through it knowing that you are the culmination and continuance of the love of thousands.
Pour your tears, your emotions, upon the living Earth, and when those have flowed back into our common Mother, rise up and dance. Rise up and live. Having passed through your pain, your sorrow, your grief, you have come to know yourself and the world in a deeper way. Though you may walk in darkness, know that the light which lives within your heart will carry you through the night, for it is the same divine light that we all share, that light which shines through every tear. Have faith, dear one, for you are the light of the world.
Rev. Jeremiah B. Lennox,
Archpriest of the Nemeton of the Ways