Petrichor: What The Smell Of Rain Teaches About Grief

How to use a grief ritual to allow emotional storms to pass.

Rain Dance

Native American tribes used the ceremony of the rain dance to call upon the Gods, requesting they supply enough rain for a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees saw this ritual as communicating with the physical and spiritual dimensions — rain is said to contain the spirit of past chiefs, who battle evil as they fall from the sky, towards Earth’s soil.

Types of Grief

Grief isn’t only a response to the death of a loved one. Grief is a natural response to many forms of loss, as 2020 has so veraciously highlighted. Job losses, lost future-visions, relationship breakups, losses of freedom, the loss of identity, can all ignite feelings of grief. They’re all equally valid. And they happen all of the time.

A closed heart dulls the connection to life, to this very moment

When grief isn’t felt or expressed, the heart closes. But our attempts to numb pain can’t target specific emotions. Instead, we become numb to the full expression of the human experience. Grief may be a burning ember in the pit of the stomach, masked by bitterness, anger, regret, disenchantment.

Life Is Suffering, Isn’t That Great?

In my darkest moments, those days of unending despair, when I was trapped in the prison of my mind, when I saw no way out, I was liberated by the concept of duḥkha. This might seem strange, seeing as its ethos is that all life is suffering.

Reconnecting To The Heart

A spiritual awakening is largely the process of reconnecting to the heart. From the heart radiates joy, peace, love, compassion. Yet to drink from the truest, purest nectar of the heart, we must move through the heartbreak, the pain, the stuff we once refused to feel. It’s no coincidence the period when my depression felt fixed and rigid when I was terrified of grief.

Returning To Wholeness

Is it all poetic and subtle and imbued with beauty? Absolutely not. I got a visceral insight into authentic grief when I attended a Holotropic Breathwork workshop. People scream at the top of their voices, they bawl their eyes out, cry for help, grunt, dance, laugh hysterically, cry some more. It’s messy. Really messy. But it’s true healing.

Miraculous is the language of existence

Stan and Christina Grof’s pioneering work demonstrates the innate power of emotional healing. Holotropic means “moving toward wholeness,” from the Greek “holos” ( whole) and “trepein” ( to move in the direction of something). The healing that takes place during these altered states appears miraculous. But miraculous is the language of existence.

The Innocence Of Grief

There were many barriers I had to confront before fully opening myself to the experience of grief. As a man, I was conditioned to always “put on a brave face,” that “emotions are weakness,” and I should maintain a “stiff upper lip.” All of these false beliefs had to be unlearned, discarded, cast aside.

Grief Rituals

Grief rituals aren’t only for big losses. I turn to a grief ritual for any sense of loss, because no matter how seemingly mundane, it still keeps me stuck or blocked, to some degree. Now, attuned to the subtleties of my heart, I realise how frequent mini-moments of grief are, and how much I used to push away from my experience.

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