The Dance of Birth and Death
The cycle of death and birth are like waves rolling along the shore of life, each one blending an ending and a beginning into the eternal journey of our soul as it moves through its realms of existence. Being both creative and fearsome, the moments of birth and loss are to be grieved and celebrated and it is this work, of both Conscious Mamma and National Grieving Day, that are, in their co-existence, lending a hand to help midwife life’s transitions.
National Grieving Day in The Journal.ie
Christine Hadekel and Lydia Kiernan’s article in The Journal.ie
We need new ways to acknowledge grief in our rapidly changing society.
The experience of the darker range of emotions is healthy and natural. But what happens when traditional grieving practises fade away, when your community experiences mass emigration, or your friendships move online?
TRADITIONALLY, THE IRISH do death really well. We have many rich practices engrained in our culture that have historically assisted the grieving process. From the vocal lament of keening at funerals to wearing a black pin on clothing for a year after bereavement, these supports have helped people work through pain and loss with personal dignity, honour and the support from their community.
But what happens when these traditions fade away? What happens when your community experiences mass emigration? What happens when the previous centres of community no longer serve a huge portion of the population, as is case with churches? What happens when your community is more online than offline?
These are some of the questions that Ireland’s new National Grieving Day are trying to address. The Day, which is being celebrated today in Ireland and around the world, is being marked by community-hosted events which are helping people move through their hurt, loss and grief towards celebration, hope and light. National Grieving Day arose from a recognition that in these modern times, we need to find new ways for our society to collectively acknowledge and release our grief, mindful that our losses might be that of a loved one, or an expectation, a home, a way of life or a period in our life.
Working through grief in daily life
Many traditional cultures around the world today have vibrant rituals integrated into their society to honour grief. But these days in Ireland, unless you’re religious or engaged in regular spiritual practice, there’s no place for people to work through their grief in daily life.
But it’s not just the lack of a central location to mourn that is the problem. Grief also seems to have a short shelf-life these days. We are expected to ‘get over’ things quickly by outsourcing our emotional processing to professionals or to compartmentalise our life, so we end up not bringing our whole person to work or to our position in the community or to the family dinner table.
The national guidelines around bereavement leave for civil servants is five days and it has become almost taboo to show our sorrow or rage, as it can make others feel uncomfortable and be perceived as a sign of weakness or dysfunctionality. This tendency to ‘just put the head down and get on with things’ can potentially be damaging, as by denying or repressing our grief, and treating it as a private pathology, our power to deal with life’s many hurdles is greatly diminished. We become more apathetic and our capacity to respond to our own suffering and that of those around us is greatly reduced.
So how do we allow our pain to be fully part of our lives? Could it be to befriend it as much as the joy we all seek? How can we learn to continue living vibrant lives in co-existence with our grief in all its complexity?
The gift of permission
The attitude of ‘getting over’ grief is a misnomer. The only way past our grief is to move through it. Grief is a verb the way love is verb. To make grief manifest in our lives is not just to feel it inside but to make movements and create actions bringing us deeper into it – the scary part we shy away from – and then through it towards a new perspective. That’s where change becomes possible. We need to acknowledge our grief not just on an intellectual level but through direct embodied experience, and key to this is giving ourselves permission.
The gift of permission, of allowing ourselves to acknowledge what we’re feeling without trying to deny any part of it, is transformational. What do you say when you meet a friend who has lost their job, or their home, or when their business has gone down the tube? Navigating the compassion and the shame around grief can be difficult and uncomfortable. We can only overcome our fear, anger, sorrow, emptiness, and despair when we give ourselves full permission to feel these emotions completely. The phrase “For every tear that is suppressed, another bullet is manifest” frames the importance of honouring these sometimes unwelcome feelings in our life.
We all encounter dark emotions
The experience of the darker range of emotions is healthy and natural, we all encounter them at some point in our life. To help communities and our nation move forwards, practical ways to help people move through these emotions are vital. Perhaps the local events around National Grieving Day today can go some way towards lifting the bind that unprocessed grief can lock us into.
What a gift we can give to the next generation, and many generations to come, if we as a nation commit to changing our attitudes about grief. A brighter, more hopeful future can emerge from the personal and societal acknowledgement of grief and the learning that arises from such witnessing. It is time to bring the grieving process out of the shadows.
Full link here
National Grieving Day in The Irish Examiner
The best of Irish traditions sparking healing and hope around the world
The Day is aiming to incorporate Ireland’s rich heritage around grieving, with events around the country, including a keening session, giving people an opportunity to sit with and move through their hurt, loss and grief towards celebration, hope and light.
Since it launched in Ireland two weeks ago, it has quickly spread with over fifteen grieving events now being held across seven countries including Ireland, England, France, Netherlands, Australia, USA and the Philippines.
“In contemporary culture, unless you’re religious or engaged in regular spiritual practice, there’s no place for people to work through their grief in daily life, we’ve lost that richness,” Ms Kiernan pointed out.
National Grieving Day is looking to address that void with a series of grassroots events where all are welcome to engage in whatever feels right for them, be it individually at home with a candle, prayer or meditation (there is an audio meditation available), attending one of the grieving events or by hosting an event themselves. The National Grieving Day team are encouraging people to do things like invite friends to their fireside for chats, spend time reminiscing with family or play music with friends. Ms Kiernan went on: “It does not have to be massive or official to be meaningful. Around the world there are grief circles, concerts, walks and workshops and with such a rapid spread of the Day, it seems a collective consciousness is really being tapped into here.” Key to the ethos of National Grieving Day is the honouring of grief in all its forms, mindful that people’s loss might be that of a loved one, or an expectation, a home, a way of life or a period in our life, personal dreams being dashed or national identity having to radically change course. There is a full day of events in Dublin, starting at The Lantern Centre on Synge Street at 12 midday and then moving to Martello Tower on Killiney Hill for a Remembrance Walk at 5.30pm.
Full link here