“Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.” —Oscar Wilde
Grief and loss touch us all, arriving at our door in many ways. It comes swirling on the winds of divorce, or the death of someone dear, as an illness that alters the course of a life. For many of us, our grief is tied intimately to the ravages we witness daily to watersheds, and forests, the disappearance of species, the silencing of languages, and the coarsening of culture. And yet our encounters with sorrow are often met with confusion, fear, and overwhelm. We are uncertain how to meet this difficult guest when it surfaces in our lives.
It is through the rites of grief that we are, in turn, ripened as human beings. Grief invites gravity and depth into our world. Our work is to understand grief not only as an emotion but also as a core faculty of being human. This is soul activism intended to foster deep cultural change. Cultivating the skills of grief work is critical in these days of wild uncertainty and rampant loss. We need to fortify our inner and outer connections to not only weather the storms but to be tempered by them. We do this work not solely for our own healing, but also to make us capable of responding to the critical needs of our times.
FRANCIS WELLER is a psychotherapist, writer, and soul activist. Author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, and In the Absence of the Ordinary: Essays in a Time of Uncertainty, he has introduced the healing work of ritual to thousands of people. He is completing his third book, The Alchemy of Initiation: Soul Work and the Art of Ripening.