Grieving in Community

In many indigenous cultures, grief is often a collective experience. Through sacred rituals and praise, grief is expressed out loud as a uniting force of remembrance. In the Mayan culture, each individual is given permission to grieve openly and mourn completely at the time of loss. Author, Martin Prechtel, describes grief as a poem, no matter how messy, inappropriate, amateurish, or loud, it deserves to be heard. There are said to be entires villages around the world that understand the importance of honoring grief as a community.

Here in the West, we seem to have placed a time stamp on grief. There seems to be an unspoken expectation that after some time, one will simply get on with life. This concept seems to be wrecking out entire culture. If we are unable to grieve in community, it is nearly impossible for individuals to heal fully. Grief demands to be heard, from all beings. This grieving thing makes us human, it is what unites us all at our core.

Deep in my pit of grief, it was the support of individuals around me that kept me afloat. No one had the “quick-fix” or even the “right thing to say”, but many had the willingness to listen. A month after my loss, I received a bereavement card from a local hospice. There were over a dozen personalized notes and signatures, from complete strangers. This meant the world to me, because not only did it validate my grief, but it provided a collective honoring of someone who I loved very deeply. This type of experience can be a game changer in grief. A powerful shift can occur when grief is validated. Grief is a song, that deserves to be heard, and perhaps shouted from the rooftops.

Though a highly personal experience, grief also requires to be felt in the company of other grief. It is almost indescribable the way grief shifts in the moment it is expressed out loud. In that brief encounter, one’e grief becomes the world’s grief. Although pain-staking and lonely, grief is an invisible thread that connects all of our hearts. It has the power to redefine humanity.

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