3 Rituals For Moving Through Grief & Anger At Your Own Pace
It's hard to believe that March 2021 is already here. The past year has given us plenty to grieve, and this weekend marks not only the anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in the U.S. but also the murder of Breonna Taylor.
The importance of making space for grief.
It's not uncommon these days to hear people talk about "the work," or the inner healing that needs to take place within all of us in order to move forward as a society. And in most (if not all) cases, healing from grief is a part of this work.
"Grief work is the work, and we live in a society that's so grief-adverse," Cator tells mbg. But today, "We're living in times that are calling us to slow down, stop, and grieve [...] So much has happened, we can't just keep going."
For Black folks, particularly Black women, there's the universal trauma of living through a pandemic, coupled with "racial trauma, and racism, which creates compounding effects," Cator explains.
She adds that as it relates to Black women, "Historically, there's been so much 'Hold it all in; we have to keep going.' I understand where that comes from [...] and at the same time, we need to create that space so we can heal that intergenerational trauma and wounding and patterning."
How can unprocessed grief stand in the way of healing?
When something terrible happens, the tendency is to freeze. "When we're freezing, the grief is stuck in our bodies [...] and when that happens over and over again, it creates all sorts of things," Cator says, whether it be disease1 or even a change in behavior, such as being angry all the time.
In order to move through the body, grief needs to be witnessed and felt—which is easier said than done. "I think living in a culture that's very hyper-focused on capitalism, there's this push toward 'We have to keep going,' yet if we don't stop, we're unable to really integrate the lessons that we're meant to integrate," she notes.
While it's not easy to carve out the time and space to do so, grief calls for ceremony, for ritual, and for community. When we honor and witness our grief and actually stop to take in its medicine, she adds, "It changes our behavior, and the way we interact with one another."
3 rituals for moving through grief at your own pace:
Through engaging the body.
Cator notes that animals will commonly shake as a stress response, to help their bodies process something, like being attacked or wounded.
Humans can embody that same idea through things like dancing and even breathwork. "Throughout the Black diaspora," she says, "we see all of these grief rituals, which involve dancing, singing, wailing—all of those things actually allow us to somatically release, alchemize, and integrate the medicine of grief."
She adds that she's a big proponent of breathwork because specific breathing patterns "allow more space for emotions that are buried deeply to come up."
Feeling held and supported by your community in times of grief is essential, Cator says. She adds that having trusted people in your life who aren't "trying to fix or change or give you advice around grief, and just witnessing," is tremendously helpful.
And even though events still don't quite look the same with the ongoing pandemic, we can still gather virtually. This weekend, Cator is hosting a digital event to mark the anniversary of Breonna Taylor's murder as well as the pandemic.
For her, this community event is about holding that space and letting those in attendance know their tears and their grief are welcome: "It gives people permission to release not only what's happened in the past year but what's happened to them personally; it's a space for them to acknowledge it."
And lastly, journaling can also be a helpful tool in moving through grief, Cator tells mbg, and it's something she practices herself.
She likes to journal with a group, where everyone gets a chance to write about what's in their heart. You can journal any time, but this weekend may be a particularly good time to sit down and unpack everything you've been through in the past year. Cator suggests thinking about questions like, "What needs to be witnessed?" and "What needs to be grieved?"
The bottom line.
When we don't process our own grief and take the time to truly mourn, it can really throw us off—mind, body, and spirit. That's no good for us, the people in our lives, or the collective as a whole. So this weekend, and always, take the time to witness what you've gone through and what the world has gone through, and give yourself the space to move through it, whatever that looks like to you.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.