This article is by Sarah Knapp an instructor who will be sharing at Spirit Weavers Gathering 2023
Elder & culture worker Stephen Jenkinson writes, “Grief is not a feeling; it is a capacity. We are not on the receiving end of grief; we are on the practicing end of grief.” Although in the mainstream sense, Grief has often been understood as a feeling state, Jenkinson invites us to grief as an art; something we do, something we practice.
For over 4 years now, I have been co-facilitating a Grief Circle here in San Diego called Grief & Praise with my soul sister and mentor, Gris Alves. Once a month at a Yoga Studio near the sea, we circle up with strangers around the community altar to practice grieving and to practice praising.
In grief, we often, understandably, can lose sight of what’s still good in life. We can get lost and stuck in our sorrows, and there’s nothing wrong with us for this. Perhaps that’s just the way Grief is; especially nowadays, where there is so little living culture to encircle Grievers.
Martin Prechtel’s book: The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief & Praise welcomes another view of the initiation that is loss; that real losing is how we find our way to real loving. Martin invites us to the mythopoetic understanding that Grief, in essence, is a doorway to Praise.
In a society that does not teach grieving, how do we remember this lost art? How do our grieving bodies, often so overworked and under-cared for, learn how to work with the energies of grief in a way that doesn’t send us to the depths of life all alone?
These are questions no one has the answers to, but Somatic Experiencing (and Somatics in general) have helped me a great deal in working with the heaviness, loneliness and chronic malaise of being a 2023 Griever.
My Dad died of Alzheimer’s Disease two years ago and I spent the majority of my 20’s assisting him as his “Death Doula” or Daughter, as I like to call it. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 21 and it didn’t resonate with me to leave him to the medical system and go on with my life, as my Dad, my sweet Dad, began to wither away.
He strengthened as he withered, if you can imagine that. Many report this in Alzheimer’s or other diseases that create an “altered state” in the brain; something came alive in him as he was dying. In many ways, the disease freed him up: to scream, to dance, to play, to be a present, loving, deeply sensitive Father for the first time in my adult life.
But even after 8 years of grieving as he was dying a bit every day, his final, real death wrecked me. I thought that because I had been accompanying him for so many years, his death itself wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I was wrong, I was wrecked and I still am.
Somatic Experiencing is a body-based trauma resolution therapy developed by Dr. Peter Levine. Separating from the western “top-down” psychological approach to therapy, Somatic Experiencing offers a different access point to healing trauma: working “bottom up,” from the body.
I’d been receiving SE sessions for almost 4 years but it wasn’t until I began my SEP (Somatic Experiencing Practitioner) training that I really started to “get it.” What’s stuck is in my body, but what’s stuck isn’t fixed, and with the right support, my body knows exactly what to do.
I completed my first year of Somatic Experiencing training and have been offering discounted, sliding scale sessions in person in San Diego and via Zoom until I complete the program. Grievers find me, as they know I get it; the sluggishness, the heartbreak, the overwhelm & exhaustion in the body from Grieving (or attempting to Grieve) in a society that doesn’t honor deterioration so well.
Grievers are holy beings. They hold in their heart the bridge between this world and the next. They offer to the culture an example of what it’s like to love, and be totaled by love, and to love again. They offer to the culture a slower time; a time that’s not set by street lights and gregorian hours, but rather the time of the body, the slow, tired body; the body that has known loss.
Receiving weekly Somatic Experiencing Sessions from my SEP Jonah Jensen (www.earthwaysjourneys.com) has been, I hate to use the phrase but, a “game changer” in my grief. These sessions give my body space to be in deep time and to become curious about the sensations in my body surrounding loss. For instance, when humans feel sad, humans often feel a heaviness in the body and this heaviness is assumed to be bad. Over time, I’ve been delighted to discover again and again that this heaviness in my body is often positive; especially when I have the time & contained space of the session to receive the heaviness.
I am teaching a class on Somatics & Grief at both sessions of Spirit Weavers Gathering this June. I look forward to connecting with any women who have walked through Alzheimer’s, parent loss or grief. If you want to book a Somatic Experiencing session with me, you can explore my offerings at my website: www.griefisariver.com or connect with me on Instagram: @griefisariver. Bless your heart. xx, Sarah.
Pre-order/purchase Spirit Weavers Gathering’s book: When Women Gather, A Decade With Spirit Weavers here.
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