The Alchemy of Grief

I wept as Terry Tempest Williams described watching the door open to reveal her brother’s body after being cremated for six hours.  She spoke of his ribs, broken open like wings, the bones they gathered after another 3 hours on trays and then watched as they were ground to dust. The weight of his bones was 8 pounds and 2 ounces, the weight he was at birth.

“Learn from owls.”  She said in her clear, steady voice. “They have taught me a thing or two about how to navigate the dark.”

2019 has been a year full of grief. Friends have passed, leaving young children motherless, family allies have been given terminal diagnoses, parents of friends have crossed the rainbow bridge, my family has broken my heart.

Many days I have wondered, “How is it possible to rise day after day when grief is like a mantle pressing me into the earth?” Sometimes, it is like a hand pressing against my breastbone, steady and deep, compressing my chest into itself.

Caroline Casey, a mystic sufi aikido weaver of webs, astrological alchemist, and transformer of energy, had some things to say about grief and the life we find ourselves in tonite. “Throw everything in the energetic cauldron. Anything can go in, and something else comes out.” That’s what cauldrons do. They transform matter based on your intention.

What do I want to throw in the cauldron? Grief, hatred, fear, and anxiety for starters. But there is more. You must ask the things you throw in the cauldron, what they want/ed to be.

Grief, what did you want to be?
And she whispers back, I want to be joy.

Hatred, what did you want to be?
Why love, of course.

Fear? What did you want to be?
Safety. Comfort. Surety.

And anxiety? What did you want to be?
She stares me in the eyes. Clarity. Purpose. Conviction.

Ashe is a word that means, “May what I say happen.”

So I string it together and ladle it out of the cauldron.

I am joyous, clear, safe, sure, Love. Ashe.

And I share it with you because what we intend, we must also share, because to change reality is to collaborate with co-creators and to hold each other in a ring of community.

Martin Prechtel says in his incredible book, The Smell of Rain on Dust, that we cannot grieve what we do not love. That to grieve is to honor that which we have loved and lost. It is important to acknowledge grief and to do so with people who love you. And if you have no one, then go to the sea, offer her a gift, and sing your praises and sorrows to her in the most beautiful way you can.

We have forgotten the ways of grieving in our culture. This year I have been offered the chance to learn the alchemy of grief in my bones.

I may at some point choose to tell specific stories of my grief, like Terry did so beautifully about her brother, but right now I will say that tonite when I asked the sensations and emotions in my body what they wanted to be, they surprised me with the beauty and truth of who I really am. They revealed myself to me and offered a re-orientation to the truth north of my path through life.

I am here to embody joy, love, clarity, and safety. To be a welcome home to myself and others. And if I have to cry and stir the grief stew when the cauldron becomes full to overflowing, then you can find me there, asking my ingredients what they wanted to be in the company of friends, with tears streaming down my face and joy shining from my heart as I clear the way for Life to flow again.


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