Joy and Grief: 2 Sides of the Same Coin

I spent last Saturday at an amazing African Grief ritual led by Sobonfu Some.  I want to share my experience with you!

Grief ritual altar
by 3268zauber

Sobonfu asked how could it be a gift when you’ve lost a child, and you’re left to bear witness. You signed up for 10,000 years, and they signed up for 3.

She said that every loss is a gift, a brand new ticket.  Not to give up.  Those lost may live through us.  If we’ve lost a child, to find other children.  That is the medicine, the healing.

We’re not sure we want to start grieving.  Will there ever be an end?  She said if we don’t grieve, we give our grief to others when we blame them, act passive aggressively, …

She taught us that all grief is valid.  That everything is big.  To lay down the dead carcasses we’ve been carrying.  And let our souls cook.

Grief and loss are 2 sides of the same coin. To be happy, we need to feel pain and sadness. It’s the way the soul purges itself.

In the West, she said people go away to cry. The individual carries the problem when it’s actually a communal grief. In healthy communities, people try to find out what others are sad about and to hold space for them.

By the afternoon, with the help of Sobonfu, our community-for-the-day had created 3 beautiful altars: a forgiveness altar, a grief altar, and an ancestral altar.

Sobonfu guided us through the ceremony where many of us laid down our heavy burdens.

We had African drumming, beautifully adorned altars with candles, flowers, personal items, and each other assisting as many of us cried our hearts out.  My heart was especially touched that no one was left alone in their tears.  Each one of us had a partner, a silent, caring witness.

At the end, there was a sense of deep communion in the room. People hugged each other sweetly.

In parting, I asked Sobonfu if people have their grief openly in her African village. She answered yes. People have their feelings, express them, grieve them, and others bear witness.

How beautiful that her African village supports this kind of natural, open-heartedness! They have permission to cook their souls in the company of others … and to open together to the joy on the other side!

When you hear me tell this story and speak of joy and grief as 2 sides of the same coin, I’m curious what comes up for you. Would you like permission to cry freely and know that you’ll have the company of someone holding space for you? How would that change your life?

2 thoughts on “Joy and Grief: 2 Sides of the Same Coin

  1. How wonderful to be part of a community that more than allows, actually invites grief, holds space for it and understands its connection to joy.
    The authenticity that is called for in that type of community is our deepest longing – to be truly who we are!


    1. Yes, Annette! To be truly ourselves … how wonderful is that!


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