“Grieving is the backbone of all real peace. Grief is a shameless dreamer who thinks nothing of healing impossible despair head-on. Because grief and praise can avert the suffering among future generations by healing to keep people healthy and conscious about the sanity of learning to love those around us, it would seem that both grief and praise are very practical versions of love in motion.” – The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise by Martin Prectel. (Page 4)
August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day and I was asked to consider the biological, neurological, and spiritual task of grief. I have been grateful in my life for the instruction of Martin Prectel, an author with Pueblo background and a member of the Tz’utujil Mayan community in the village of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. His book “The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise” was an invaluable guide for me through my own human processes of grief and transformation through painful life losses. At first, being knocked hard on my back by the waves of ‘impossible despair’ felt so shameful; I was grateful for Prectel’s instruction that overwhelming and transformative grief is the deepest form of praise for those we love. The eloquent love of grief will create its own path. Honest grief will form a new, healthy reality in a manner we cannot control or predict.
Unwanted, unexpected, and overwhelming transitions in life can push us below the bedrock of the deepest well on earth–we can easily become fearful of this new vulnerability in life. It can be especially true when the situation around death and loss is chaotic or hard to understand. Sometimes we try to “power through,” pretending to ourselves and others that we are invincible to grief. Yet, we can’t interrupt our natural, biological need to grieve and allow the world to be recreated through this painful upheaval. We need to face this involuntary process of change when the grief is simple or complicated.
As we face this daunting task, we can remember that the earth and our own bodies are wise. They know how to move through and complete the process of grief. If we forget our membership in the natural world, we only need to see that many animals and plants also share a grieving process. We are the same as the orcas, the elephants, the crows, the oaks, and the redwoods, and so many other members of the natural world. We all experience seasons of grief after the devastating loss of a community member who was loved by us, who loved us, and who provided strength and guidance to our lives. Grieving is part of what binds us to the web of all living beings.
Along with wisdom, it is helpful and often crucial to find a skilled guide to help us navigate through grief toward new organization, clarity, peace, and health. It is important to find a container, a process, a group, or a skilled guide to help us grieve productively. Isolation makes grief harder to manage. We often need someone to help us emerge from despair into a new reality when the time is right. Sometimes we can get lost in impossible despair and we need mental health or spiritual health support in order to traverse the dangerous waters and emerge again onto dry land.
While situations of grief are rarely something we choose, we do have a responsibility to undergo the tasks of grief when it is our turn. It is an essential part of our identity as living beings to honor those who have died before us. If we pause grief, we pause the maturing process within our family system, our community and ourselves. Grief is a journey that can’t be avoided just as it can’t be rushed or indulged. Therefore, we honor the grievers in our society. Through grief, we can offer the gift of health and innocent love to our children, as well as to our ancestors.
On this day, we are aware of the grievers among us, as well as ourselves. We honor your work, and you are not alone. Speak about your loss with eloquence and love. Be comforted to know that processing grief brings life and health to future generations.
“Get courageous. Become a person. Make beauty out of grief. Become real people who might have untenable rotten ideas, but who in the end grow into solid old people who are generous and conniving, people who know things and don’t just see everything as a business opportunity. Be courageous, make your hate into an art of love beyond your wants, and stop sending undigested grief in the form of sorrow frozen into hate into the arms of the future. Hand over the world with some modicum of the possibility for peace.” – The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise by Martin Prectel. (Page 85)