2020 has been something, huh?
Because of all of the things, we are thrilled to be sharing this guest post from Bernadette Pleasant, the founder of The Emotional Institute, an online resource and educational center that offers courses, workshops, and interactive experiences that provide pathways to cultivate emotional wellbeing and gain insights that bring about a balanced mind/body connection.
Bernadette has spent a lifetime exploring celebrations of the mind and body, from sensual dance to somatic healing. As a woman of color who comes from an esteemed tradition of natural healers, she is recognized as a leader in the mind-body wellness realm.
We had Bernadette on our podcast last year and let me just say that it’s an episode you definitely don’t want to miss (and if you heard it already, it’s worth another listen!). Get it here.
Now, read on for the one ritual Bernadette says we all need to do to not only help deal with all of the stress of 2020, but also how to help us heal our own past wounds so that we can all find true, authentic joy in our lives (even amidst of all of what’s happening). Gosh knows we all need that!
By Bernadette Pleasant
Grief has always been an essential emotion of humanity, in every place and every time. Yet for many of us, there has been an upswell in grief during these trying times. Grief, always there below the surface, has now broken through the veil to the forefront of our consciousness.
Many have experienced the quintessential grief of losing a loved one during this time. We are also struggling with the loss of personal freedom, loneliness, racism, worry of infection, unemployment and business loss — the list is endless.
Frustration compounds grief as many people feel helpless and don’t know how they can make a meaningful difference. Fear, hate, and grief fills the body. There is so much that needs airing, that needs to be felt, heard, seen, and moved through.
In response to the events of 2020, we have created the Grief Ritual. This virtual practice (sign up for it here — it’s free and ongoing) brings us together to hold space for one another as we move through the emotions we are experiencing, from new sorrows triggered by recent events to old grief that is coming to the surface. Whether grief is fresh and raw or has been smoldering for decades, whether it is interpersonal or existential, ecological or ancestral, the Grief Ritual facilitates its expression and release.
Healing begins in community. This embodied, somatic work invites you to access and express emotion in a supportive community. It gives you the safe space to release grief, sorrow, anger, fear, and numbness — a cathartic and deeply transformative experience.
The True Nature of Grief
Grief is natural, normal, and universal. Everyone grieves: for people we’ve lost, life changes, ecological crises, old traumas, ancestral suffering, community challenges, experiences of rupture, disappointment, and existential concerns. We may find ourselves grieving as a result of death, illness or injury, disconnection, estrangement or heartbreak, poverty, racism, or political upheaval. The causations of grief are limitless, like nature, and just as impossible to predict or control.
Yet despite its universality, grief often goes under-expressed in American culture. With a relentless pressure to be “happy” that defies reality, grief is not given its due respect. There are often cultural expectations and limitations defining what we ought to grieve about, how that grief should be expressed and how long it can last — without someone being considered weak, negative or depressed. But grief is not rational, circumscribed, or simple. And if our grief remains unexpressed or unreleased, parts of us stay frozen or stagnant.
When grief is expressed, it can take the form of tears, shaking, rage, vocalization, and movement, or silence, numbness, and despair. The faces and manifestations of grief are multitudinous. But one element is constant: grief must be released and transformed to make space for new energy and new life. This is the inspiration for the Grief Ritual.
By making time to grieve, we acknowledge the depths of feeling that are part of human life. Setting aside time to encounter and express grief allows us to get clear on what might be confusing, and find movement where we might be stuck. We accept ourselves and one another more fully. And we free ourselves to shed the heavy mantle of grief and begin to heal.
Moving through grief helps us reawaken creativity and renew parts of our lives that have gone dormant. We grow in self-love and compassion for others and deepen intimacy in myriad relationships. We find that we can experience life more fully, that we are more dynamically responsive in the here and now. We get clear on what is at the core of our grief, and awaken to ways to heal the pain.
The Power of Ritual
An essential part of our humanity that is often sadly absent in our modern age — especially during the social distancing of the pandemic — is the power of ritual. Older civilizations knew the power of ritual, and it was woven into their culture. This is tragically lost in the bustle of the 21st century, with its emphasis on surface success and screens. Now, quarantining has driven us even further apart. Yet we can be creative, resilient and find ways to come together, safely, even now.
During the Grief Ritual, we come together to express, embody, and release our grief. We hold one another in care and community, whatever and however we may be grieving. Together, we create a safe container for emotion to move through us both as individuals and as a group. We hold space for one another to acknowledge and release the grief, pain, anger, regret, despair, fear, and sadness that we have been carrying — and that weighs us down and prevents us from living fully.
Grieving together helps us discover previously unrecognized and even unknown aspects of our grief. Bearing witness to the grief of others helps us to find more compassion for ourselves as well as people around us. It empowers us to shed our armor and soften, to understand that we are not alone, and to release any shame we might be carrying about our feelings. Supporting and being supported by people who are also committed to accessing and expressing their grief, we find deeper connection and healing, both individually and collectively. –Bernadette Pleasant
Remember, you can sign up for the next Grief Ritual here. And be sure to learn more about The Emotional Institute and Bernadette’s incredible work here. A huge thanks to Bernadette for sharing her wisdom with us! –Jenn