Grief Tending in Community

This website is set up by Sophy from the Devon Grief Tending team, to share understandings about grief, especially grieving together. In the absence of received traditions from our own culture we are learning from others whose traditions are still intact, as well as bringing modern insights, and attempting to weave ways of expressing grief together that are accessible, meaningfull and beautiful.

Grieving is a natural process, allowing the expression of sadness, loneliness, anger, despair and other feelings. The more we open ourselves to love others, to celebrate the beauty of our world, to long for peace or justice, the more we open ourselves to the pain of losing what we love, or the destruction and the inequality in the world around us. Grief is not a negative thing, but an expression of our love, our passion for justice, our interconnectedness.

Sharing grief has been a part of human cultures throughout time and across the world. When we hear each other in our vulnerability we can open our hearts to each other again – remembering the truth that we sometimes need to be held by others, and that to hold each other in life and suffering gives life richness and meaning. Grief can be seen as a precious thing – something we evolved to feel and express as a way of binding us together when things are tough, and bringing the beauty of tenderness to everyday hurts and losses.

What is the modern way of handling grief? To distract ourselves with busyness? To soothe or numb it with sugar, alcohol, drugs, shopping? To medicate it, diagnose it as a dysfunction. To criticise or pathologies those who express vulnerability – at work, in public, even at funerals? In so many ways our culture treats grief as something negative, even shameful, to be got rid of or excluded. What does it say about our culture that we do this, and what is the impact on our connection to each other, on our well being, even our sanity?

There are many forms of grief. We include all painful feelings – of sorrow, anger, fear, loneliness, despair, guilt, frustration.. there is a long list! And sometimes getting in touch with grief means being aware of our numbness of what we can’t feel.

Grief has many sources. From the natural losses of life to the shocks of sudden bereavement or relationships breakdown, from the daily hurts and bruising of modern life to our pain for the state of the world, and the suffering of others, there are many ways our grief is stirred. You can read about Frances Weller’s five “Gateways to grief” here -welcoming and honouring grief from whichever spring of our humanity it arises.

rumi birdwings with dove

Where can we express grief? Some may have the privilege of private spaces to be heard in grief – paying a therapist, understanding friends or family. There are communities where there is a welcome to grief, even processes or rituals to support it.

The challenges creating spaces to share grief.. It’s not simple, to come together in modern culture and create ways of grieving. Sometimes we are borrowing from other cultures whose traditions have lasted into modern times. This is complicated as modern western culture has often been a major cause of destruction to the people whose lineage we are learning. We can try to res

tore and recreate the practices of our own lands – as Maeve Gavin was doing in her Keening Wake project. And we can create our own ways – often in groups where everyone has different inner practices, a different concept of what spirit or ritual is, if those words mean anything at all – and for some they are things to be avoided.

So this process isn’t simple, but we see it as vital – for ourselves, for individuals, for relationships, for communities – and for the necessary restoring of our understanding that we are part of and absolutely dependent on a thriving, beautiful web of life.