An empty bench under a tree

Grief is not a problem to be solved, but a presence waiting to be witnessed

-Francis Weller

Why grief tending?

We are not meant to grieve alone, but Western culture has encouraged us to hide our grief and not embarrass others with it. Or, to get over it as quickly as possible and get on with life. This is a deep dishonouring of the losses that we have experienced that arise from having loved. We only grieve because we love. If we do not allow ourselves to grieve fully, our hearts may grow hardened or constricted and we may also lose our capacity for joy, and end up living in what Francis Weller calls “a flatline culture”.

What we need is to have someone listen deeply to our sorrow, and say it matters.

-Francis Weller

When we are accompanied in our grieving, we remember our shared humanity and that we are not alone in our heartbreak. With the support of others, we can find the courage to turn towards our grief and let it flow through our hearts. We discover that grief does not destroy us, but rather it renews our desire and courage to live and love again.

What happens in a grief tending gathering?

When we gather together in community to tend to our grief, we begin slowly and respectfully, getting to know each other and building connection. We create a safe space where it is possible to speak our sorrows and be received with sensitivity. We do not offer advice or solutions, but rather an honouring of what each person brings into the circle. Grieving is as unique and particular as the individual who is experiencing it.

We then move into setting up the space for the grief tending ceremony. This involves creating a grief “shrine” in the room by sharing objects which represent our grief, and placing them on a low table. This provides a safe and held place where participants are invited and supported to express their grief in whatever way it is moving through them. During the ceremony, we sing together, and so generate a sense of “village” which is a vital part of generating a sense of belonging and connection. When participants return to the village after grieving, they are thanked and welcomed.

The ceremony itself has its own natural flow and timing within the boundaries of the structure of the overall gathering, which can vary in length from a few hours, half a day or a whole day. Time is always allowed for integration and resourcing which is essential in transitioning back into the outside world.

Who is grief tending for?

Anyone who is experiencing any kind of loss from any time in their lives. It may be very recent or it may be from earlier in life. It may be very personal or it may also be for the “sorrows of the world”.

There is no expectation of how participants have to be. Grief has its own timing and expression which may be very quiet and internal, or more vocal and loud. There may be a flow of tears, howls of indignation, or cries of outrage. Any form of expression is welcomed and respected. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

For information, upcoming dates and locations, please contact:

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

-Rashani Rea