Community Grief Rituals
What are Community Grief Rituals?
Humans have been grieving in community throughout history. Only in the past hundred years or so have people become more isolated in their expressions of grief. Certain depths of emotion are only accessible to us collectively. Community grief rituals offer us the necessary container and connection for us to move through our deepest feelings. Together, we will create a strong container to hold us as we grieve social and political griefs, the loss of lives, dreams, identity, and connection with our ancestors, Mother Earth, and Spirit. This work will make us stronger, resilient, and open space for joy and for the life that is here to live in the present moment.
Our day together will consist of a morning workshop exploring grief and an afternoon ritual inspired by the Dagara people of Burkina Faso, as taught to us by our beloved teacher, Sobonfu Somé. You can read more about her perspectives on grief HERE.
“I had originally hesitated to participate in the grief ritual because it was an all-day affair and I didn’t feel like I had the time for it. I am glad that I reconsidered. I found it to be far more potent than I had expected – this kind of work takes several hours to get through!
Some particulars stand out. The safety that I felt to express my emotions in front of my community speaks to the ability of Maggie to hold this kind of space. The singing and drumming provided a sonic driver and invocation of ritual space. The fact that each of us was invited to alternate between the roles of doing our own work and offering support to others (both directly and as a member of the chorus of singing and drumming) as they did theirs, kept the energy very high.
In the aftermath, the immediate effect for me was to have a better night’s sleep than I have had in quite some time! I felt like I had dropped a large burden. I would definitely participate again and would highly recommend it to others.”
– Jeff C.
What to Expect
Morning: Grief Workshop
In the morning the day will start with introductions and group check-ins as we explore types of grief, their significance in our lives, and what each of us in bringing. We will prepare alters for the ritual together.
Afternoon: Grief Ritual
In the afternoon, after a lunch break, we will utilize a Dagara ritual to feel and release our grief into a community-held container. No grief is to large, as we come together to remember how to grieve in community.
What to Bring
We encourage you to get a good rest the night before the ritual and to take some gentle time preparing what you would like to bring to place on our community altars. We ask that you bring the following items with you that day, if you have them:
Layered clothing-- to regulate your own temperature
Lunch--There is a concerted effort to stay in ritual space so please make sure you bring a lunch.
Snacks-- if you need a boost during the day.
5 Natural materials that are ok to leave (i.e., leaves, pinecones, flowers, rocks)
Flowers for the altars
Alter items you would like to take back home (photos of those who have passed, objects that are sacred or special for you). There will be an ancestor altar and a forgiveness altar.
Red, Blue or black cloth (if you have it)
Percussion Instruments (drums, rattles, shakers)
Electric, scent-free candles
"The Grief Ritual was a deeply moving experience – both for me individually, as well as a bonding experience with the other participants. The facilitators created a sacred safe space for us to come together in community, and release whatever heavy energy has accumulated in our bodies and minds.
The process was gentle and evocative. Powerful yet kind. It spoke to feelings I knew I had that I wanted to relinquish, and it also opened the space for negative energy that I was unconscious of that needed release.
It was so helpful having leaders that inspired trust, respect, and who created an ideal container for the work to emerge.
I left feeling lighter and more connected to myself and my community.
Highly recommend this work – especially in an individualistic culture like ours that doesn’t often honor the need for emotional safety and release."
Jan Passion, Consultant
Pleasant Hill, CA
“I absolutely loved this workshop. I was very nervous to attend because I was not sure that I would feel comfortable grieving around my neighbors. I also felt like I was too busy and could not afford to take the time. Now I see that I couldn’t afford not to! So many layers of grief peeled off during this ritual that I can’t even express. I learned things about myself that I hadn’t even known, layers of unexpressed grief from childhood and adulthood griefs were released. I feel so much more freedom now.
Maggie is very gentle and the process allows total permission to be yourself. If you’re not comfortable with a public display of emotion you’re not required to show that. But if it does seem appropriate you’re invited to release whatever wants to be released. There is tremendous permission given to support others or not, to grieve or to not, so there is no pressure to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. That ultimately makes The experience end up feeling extremely safe. I’m pretty sure I’m not The only one who ended up expressing much more grief than I had intended, all because Maggie made it so safe.”
– Laura Cornell, PhD.
FAQ and Resouces
Why are you as a White person holding space for an African Ritual?
Our day together will consist of a morning workshop exploring grief and an afternoon ritual inspired by the Dagara people of Burkina Faso, as taught to us by our beloved teacher, Sobonfu Somé. This ritual was gifted by the Dagara people, via Sobonfu Somé, to Western culture. Sobonfu Somé and Malidoma Somé have brought this work to the Western world. Since we live in a global society, it is in the world’s best interest that white, western people remember how to grieve. For that reason, it is a gift that will ripple out and effect the whole of humanity.
As white people who feel concerned with our culture's tendency to appropriate, we've put great thought and care into the idea of holding an African ritual. We are committed to giving credit and honor to the Dagara for this sacred gift. Sobonfu said that if you borrow a pot from your neighbor to cook your guests some food, you would say to your guests, “ thanks to our neighbors, we have this food tonight.” It is in gratitude to the Dagara people for sharing their ritual that we have this “pot” to cook in. To share our grief. To remember how to grieve in community.
We show our reverence for this work by keeping it intact and teaching it as close to the way it was taught to us as possible. We are also not claiming to know everything; offering space for folks who have experience in this work, with the Dagara people, or with Burkina Faso to offer knowledge during workshops.
REFUND POLICY: Please note that we are unfortunately unable to offer refunds once a donation has been offered. We are however happy to change the name on your registration if you would like to find someone to take your place.
Falling Out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom by Sobonfu Some
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller
Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson
Griefwalker, 2012 starring Stephen Jenkinson
“Grief. You wish you could go around it. But the only way through it is through it. Grief is a bit like having to wade across a river. The grief ritual helps you. The people you are with are the rafts and the ritual is the rope. You can pull yourself across the grief with the ritual and the community. When you are tired, you can rest and when you are ready to continue you can climb back on a raft and paddle. After the ritual, you find yourself on the other side, exhausted from the journey. No one ever crosses a river and wishes they had not. Once on the other side you just lay exhausted and in awe of your life and all that has happened.”
-Alex M., Oakland