In 2014 I had the honor of attending a three-day "community grieving ritual" conducted by an African wisdom teacher named Sobonfu Some’. Sobonfu taught us the importance of grieving in community. She showed us how to use ritual, symbolism, movement and singing to give grief a communal voice that rises up as a call to spirit to support us in our healing. In Sobonfu’s words, grief rituals help us to "regain a lasting sense of connectedness with ourselves and with spirit, and to find a proper place to release our grief about the loss of loved ones, the loss of our dreams and the loss of our connection with the ancestors."
Sobonfu’s ritual was one of many stops on my journey toward a multi-cultural awareness of death practices and afterlife beliefs. Over the last ten years I’ve been trained in everything from the death traditions of Peruvian shamans to Freud’s “grief work” theory and the meditations of ancient Christian mystics. I completed academic degrees in religious studies and counseling, all while producing the annual Afterlife Conference, which enabled me to observe – and become friends with – some of today’s leading psychic mediums.
Which brings me to my point… mediums and the grief journey seem like a marriage made in heaven. Literally. But the dots aren’t always connected. Because while an evidential reading with a good medium can bring tremendous relief when a bereaved person realizes her loved one still exists (in a different dimension), even in the glow of those precious messages from the other side, she finds that her pain still exists too. Because while a reading may be able to shift the weight of the pain toward a new balance, nothing can make the pain go away.
When we focus too much on trying to deny, dismiss or defeat the pain of grief, we hold healing at bay. In order for the pain to be transformed, it must be honored, embraced and lovingly cared for, because like the messages a medium brings from our loved ones in spirit, the experience of loss, grief and mourning is also a sacred message. It calls us to go deeply within, using mystical tools beyond what conventional grief counseling or support groups can provide.
By participating in rituals like Sobonfu's, we find the places in ourselves where we have the ability to shift the contracted energy of “stuckness” to an expanded energy of acceptance and spaciousness. We are given practices that help us break through suppression, denial, blame, guilt and anger so that we don't live in the pain, but we live with it as a companion and teacher.