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Learning to Tend to Our Grief

15 Oct 20

by Mena Kirmani


As we shift into the cooler months, we are surrounded by a grand shift in nature; we find leaves falling and turning many shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.  Looking at the trees around us, we can reflect on how this process is reminiscent of letting go of that which feels dense and heavy within us. We are able to notice how the trees are transforming, letting go every day, and turning their energy inward.

Nature is within us. She is us. So how could we connect with this process and harness these energies on a deeper level? 

Typically in our world, we understand grief to be something confined to a loss of a loved one or a pet. Yet as a collective, we don’t seem to notice the many more subtle ways we can experience these dense feelings. Through the many seasons and phases of our lives, we will naturally come across painful experiences which brings up feelings of grief. This can look like:

Grieving who we once were. Unfulfilled dreams. Not feeling seen. The loss of nature. The mistreatment and abuse in the world. Times without technology. The loss of our childlike naivety. The loss of connections from the past. A diagnosis or health issues. The loss of a famous person we have grown to love. The grief of setting boundaries and leaving toxic relationships, families and workplaces. 

As a result of these experiences, we might find ourselves in shock, numb, feeling nothing. Other times we might not be able to name what we are feeling. What is hurting us might seem insignificant, or not worth feeling ‘upset’ over, perhaps comparing our suffering to another and minimising our pain in the process.

Our grief and traumas, like all of the many emotions we experience, deserve to be witnessed by others who can honour and hold us in our experience. Without experiencing kind and loving support to witness and validate our grief, our pain is held and stored in our bodies with nowhere to go. Over time, this can manifest into diseases, chronic ill-health, and unexplainable symptoms. By navigating, exploring and fully feeling through our grief, we allow nature to move through us. So how can we take some initial steps toward being able to fully honour and be in a kind relationship with our grief? What would that look like in reality? The following elements can support you in exploring/processing your grief layer by layer:

  • Noticing what comes up in the body. Do you feel any heaviness or sharpness? Any tingling, pressure, tension or heat? Where exactly? How does it feel? Can you describe it?
  • Being gentle and present. Our feelings are transformed when we give them our undivided care and attentiveness. What does it feel like to focus on an internal feeling even for a few seconds?
  • Breathing. Slowly breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, and extending our exhale, can really support the body to feel and move through what is happening.
  • Moving through heavy feelings. Often when we feel activated, it helps to gently move, shake or stretch the body in ways that feel releasing and safe.
  • Bringing your thoughts outward. What feels available to you right now? Could you write down how you’re feeling? Could you confide in a loved one and ask them to just listen?

While all of these are essential to supporting ourselves, modern life can have us feeling as though we must be hyper-independent in our grieving process. This is not nature’s way; She is deeply interconnected and interdependent in every way. Thus, deep and wholesome healing does not occur in isolation. As spiritually connected beings, healing through community is the most natural, safe and supportive way for us to navigate, process and alchemise our pain. Coming together in a circle and sharing is an ancient and familiar means of doing just that. 

If you have never had access to this type of space, or if you would like to tend to your grief with a community of others, the Edinburgh ManKind Project (MKP) group would like to extend an invitation to you for a free online Grief Tending Circle on 4th November from 7:00-9:30pm as part of the To Absent Friends Festival 2020. Here, we will explore the different layers and types of grief in our lives using the ‘Five Gates of Grief’ by Franics Weller. This is a powerful opportunity to connect with and share your experiences, however big or small, in a safe space. 

Further information and the sign up link can be found here: https://rb.gy/nldjun and here: https://www.toabsentfriends.org.uk/news/festival-events-2020/grief-tending-and-remembrance/

This year continues to be deeply challenging for everyone; we can all definitely say that we have experienced some type of grief this year. Still, by engaging with and tending to our grief with the support and presence of others, perhaps we could mirror the subtle surrender of nature, where all that is too heavy is let go, layer by layer. 

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