I had my first experience with a grief ritual last month. I wasn't sure of what to expect, but I knew I had losses that I hadn't processed from the year before. The ritual was led by Sobonfu Some who has been leading healing work all over the world. The proceedings were from 9am to 9pm and two meals were provided (so I was looking forward to food). I had been nervous about the ritual since signing up for it. I wasn't sure if it was because I didn't know what to expect or if I realized how much I hadn't dealt with the previous year.
I arrived on time to my own shock and settled in. There were people there I recognized, but I wasn't feeling the least bit social. As we began with all participants in a circle, there was an eruption of weeping from around the corner. The man responsible was brought from around the corner to the circle as he continued to grieve. Hearing the pain in the man's cry made me want to join him, but I stifled the feeling.
Most of the event I found myself suppressing my emotions until I reached a point where I couldn't contain it anymore.
What started as a soft stream of tears turned into an ab-constricting sob with every hand that I felt touch me in consulation. There were moments where I stifled the crying by focusing intensely on some insignificant object. But those moments were broken as soon as someone made contact with me. I remember wanting to hide somewhere and cry; feeling out of place as everyone else was eating lunch and carrying on while I was breaking down. I had no appetite, but I definitely had an immense headache and a cry I had never heard coming from out of me. It was the most vulnerable I have ever felt; sitting in a roomful of people I didn't know very well as I was unraveling. When Sobonfu said that we'd be starting the next portion and people began clearing chairs to make room, I stacked the chairs nearest me, packed my things, and walked out the door. The drive home and rest of the day was filled with sobs and absent stares. I had never felt so deeply unsettled without knowing the cause and I kept asking myself "What is going on?"
The next afternoon the absurdity of trying not to weep at a grief ritual sunk in.
I realized how uncomfortable I was with my own voice and how instinctual it was to suppress it. I was disappointed in myself for that and wondered when I'd began swallowing my own voice. I wrote the poem below on that same day: