“What does it take to stand quietly like somebody under a clear midnight sky, taking it all in? Things going well doesn’t seem to help with this. Good fortune isn’t pervasive on this matter and it rarely gives us pause. It’s when the news isn’t good news, that’s usually the time you find the limits of what you can bear to know.”

– Stephen Jenkinson

Of course we all will find ourselves sooner or later at the edge of how much we can bear to know. Grief can be hard on the body and on the soul, especially in a culture that doesn’t know how to be heartbroken when heartbreak is called for. A culture focused on happiness and positivity, that would rather you get over and through grief, as quickly and as quietly as possible. Well-meaning folk who want to see you fixed and made better in order to be at ease again.

But grief does not need to be consoled. Grief needs witnesses.

Grief needs tears, ritual and storytelling. Grief needs singing, a fire and the blessing of the moon.

In honour of all those who find themselves bereaved, brokenhearted and bereft. For those who are sorrowed by loss of culture, loved ones and the ache of seeing the devastation visited upon this beautiful planet we call home, I invite you to contact me to talk about 1:1 work, or any of the grief soaked gatherings I offer here in Portsmouth or with my colleagues in Wales.

Please contact me to find out more about:

  • Returnings – our 5-day gathering for grief
  • Woodland grief circles in Hampshire
  • Aching Heart Days in Southsea, Portsmouth

These gatherings are for anyone grappling with how it is to be human and alive in these times. They are offered as a time to be with others, for grief to be more than just ‘mine’ and personal to ‘me’  – a time to be accompanied; to be part of creating a ‘non judgmental human basket in which to thrash around in’ with love, praise, gratitude and an indebtedness for being alive as cornerstones of our being together.

All are woven together with sharing, ceremony, ritual, storytelling, music, tears, laughter and a deep gratitude for the life in and around us.

When my husband died I did not want to learn how to grieve. I did not want to learn how to let my grief honour him and the love that we shared.

I just wanted him to come back.

The absence of his physical presence was everywhere. It made the flowers more beautiful. It made life small and pointless and then huge and overwhelming in the same instant, expanding and collapsing on my breath.

Every fibre of my being ached for him every single moment of the day and night and I didn’t know how it could be true that I was alive when he was dead.

And I still miss him of course. I yearn for his touch, his smell, his voice. I miss him telling me how lovely I am, and I would give anything to be able to dance and sing and laugh with him. I can so easily touch the exquisite joy/agony of how this would be and tears tumble tenderly down my cheek.

My grief is sown up with love. My broken heart is flooded with the fullness of my love for my dead husband. This precious human being who gave my life such joy and tenderness, who so often helped me to remember my own worthiness and who taught me how to love and stay when I wanted to run away. This amazing man who loved me when I was being lovable, and when I was less than easy to love. Such a gift to be loved thus. Such an honour. Sometimes my broken heart is so shaky all I can do is hold the pieces and cry. Sometimes my broken heart is so full of gratitude and love, that it all makes such exquisite sense….how else could it hold such love if it wasn’t stretched to breaking point.

Grief does not need to be consoled. Grief needs witnesses.

One of the hardest things about grieving in our culture is how those around us respond to the grieving person. The longing to make things better, help them get over it, comfort by telling them how brave they are or how their loved one is at peace, or how they can learn and come out stronger from the experience…all these things, and so many more, only serve to make the grieving person feel more alone.

In every case where grief and praise are still honored, there is one aspect that remains the same with all people: grief, even for an individual’s loss, is a thing for which a lot of people are necessary. A tribe is necessary even if it’s just to be a kind of resilient nonjudgmental human basket, against which the griever is able to thrash.

– Martin Prechtel

Slowly, and with some kind of unsought after grace, I have been brought to an understanding of grief’s wisdom and necessity.

I have had to learn things I did not want to learn, things that I would not have chosen had I been given such a choice, and the fire in which my understanding has been forged was often unwelcome but fiercely loving nonetheless.

And I am blessed to have had teachers and witnesses in Richard’s dying and in my grieving time. There were rare and precious people who recognised that all we have been living and dying through is a sacred and necessary part of being human, especially when I could not see anything of the sort.

Grief, I have finally been bought to seeing, is not something to be endured or worked through…grief is not a feeling, or an involuntary process that happens to you; it is a sacred act, a skill.

It is, in reality, something we can do or not do – even if we experience anger, denial, despair, confusion and acceptance in stages, all at once, or over and over again.

Grief is the way that love shows up and bows down low, honouring and praising what or who it is we miss.

Grief and praise are renters whose landlord is love. Because they are best friends, both grief and praise live together in the same building but in opposite quarters: in the left and right chambers of loves great thumping house called the heart.

Martin Pretchel

And getting good at endings, as Stephen Jenkinson says, is something we could all do well to practice. Loving something that you know is not going to last…perhaps that is a true definition of  love.

Please contact me to find out more about Returnings – our 5-day gathering for grief, woodland grief circles and Aching Heart Days.

All are woven together with sharing, ceremony, ritual, storytelling, music, tears, laughter and a deep gratitude for the life in and around us.

There are times of course when we just want relief and to find some solace from the sorrow and labour of a broken heart. In these moments I have learnt to turn towards poetry, both the tender words bubbling up inside me and those penned by other more skilled wordsmiths than I. This below from David Whyte speaks to the possibility of your making beauty from your grief and feeding those around you. May it be so.

To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even amusing companions for others. But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable that is coming to you? And how will you endure it through the years? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you are beginning to understand it, take you away?

– David Whyte