Grieving The Ancient Way

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”
 Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

To grieve is natural human emotion, just like feeling happy and joyful. For some grief is a silent, subtle state of mind that always lingers on around the fringes.

People often say that we grieve because we love.  We grieve in a variety of different conditions ways of expressing grief are also different.

And there is no set pattern or way to express grief.

Is grief the same as sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, depression and despair?

It isn’t easy to differentiate them in words, but you can only feel them. I think grief goes much deeper inside for reasons unknown.

Sadness reflects external events that impact us, such as the loss of someone or something, memories of an event. Like you know a terrible thing has happened to you or may happen to you.

You can name this sadness, and you can try to heal.

But grief is a total of all big and small sadness and much more which is vast and deep. To touch it, you need to delve deeper, deeper and deeper.

Who knows how long one has to dig in to touch it?

Sadness is in bits and pieces, and grief is whole. Sadness consumes a part of you and your life, but grief swallows you whole. For some onset of cold, dark, gloomy winters is often the season of grief and for some rainy evenings bring loneliness and grief.

Just yesterday, I was reading on what is the possibility of us, meaning humans finding life in the other parts of the Universe?  Or the other life will find us first? It will take decades, if not centuries, to find alien life.  And if alien life (considering that it is technologically much advanced than us) hasn’t seen us till now, I think they will also take more time. Not that I am being directly affected in either situation, as I’ll be dead by then. But still, grief engulfed me.

I started reading about ways to deal with grief. I wanted to know what people who came before me did when they grieved. Before, when life was much more simpler, how did people deal with grief.

Grieving was a well-recognized process, and there were different rituals associated with it but they were mainly associated with death or loss.

Sitting Shiva is a Jewish ritual for grieving for seven days undertaken after a bereavement.  Shiva incidentally is also an important Hindu God known for death and destruction. In popular iconography, he is sitting with eyes closed or meditating in the Himalayas.

Pitru Paksha or Shraddha in India symbolizes a period of grief or mourning the dead ancestors where worship, charity are done.  A similar practice is observed in Mexico called “Día de los Muertos”, or the Day of the Dead.

Rudalis in India are known for the public outpouring of grief by loud wailing and crying. Irish and Scottish also practice public crying or keening to pay respects to the deceased and express grief on behalf of the bereaved family. But these traditions are either dying or are already dead, except Halloween.  Extremely popular in North America, Halloween is originally a Celtic harvest festival dedicated to remembering the dead and the departed.

Banshee is an old female spirit from the Irish Folklore who mourns in the far off on a silent night. Her wailing and piercing cries symbolize death to the male member of the family. Her attire and description are very similar to Dhumavati, one of the Indian Mahavidyas.  Both Banshee and  Dhumavati are depicted as old, ugly widows and are associated with everything inauspicious.

Contemporary society somehow doesn’t consider pain, grieving as emotion worth displaying. We are too consumed with happiness and perfection.

Anything and everything unpleasant is brushed under the carpet.  We are too busy with moving on, and we shy away from public display of grief.  Have we become cold-hearted or fearful and comfortable?

Grieving is a way to come in terms of our mortality. It is an important but underutilized way of dealing with our emotions hidden deep inside. Whether one lights a candle, writes a journal or a note to the deceased, prepares a soul cake or offers food to crows, embracing grief is vital for our mental and physical health. By acknowledging grief we connect with our core and our past. So, talk about it, discuss it and express it!

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