GRIEF AND REST
“Rest? Grief? I don’t have time for that” she said to me.
Collectively we are in awakened deep generational pain. Awakening to the ways colonialism never truly ended. Awakening to the thieving of the colonial State both past and present. Awakening to the ways in which we are made disposable. Awakening to the places where trust and community are broken and need to be rebuilt.
Even for me, it is sometimes easier to run from these pains. Or to push them down and cover them with addictive tendencies: overworking, overgiving, social media scroll, numbing television, chocolate cake everyday… We’ve all been there.
These tendencies are not bad per se. I acknowledge them and myself for when this is all I had access to. However, they do not get me closer to a vision of wholeness. They don’t enable me to redesign life in healing and regenerative ways.
grief and rest are linked to healing and the work of decolonising, reindigenising and redesigning life
If we stopped pushing hard, or running, and are supported to do this, we might be able to lay our burdens down and rest.
This year (counting from Sept/Oct, the start of the indigenous year in East Afrika) has been a year of grief and rest on personal and collective levels. It has been a year in which I have recognised that grief and rest are linked to healing and the work of decolonising, reindigenising and redesigning life.
It has been a year in which I have learnt *what* it means to be in grief. And *how* to grieve.
Rest, among other things, is what supports me to meet my pain and grieve.
Some rest practices I have been gifting myself with recently have been:
- Truthtelling: noticing when I am not OK through the signs in my body, environment, emotions, etc and acknowledging this truth for myself. It’s the opposite of running away from pain, and creates internal space for me to be able to do something else.
- Saying no, and holding myself with compassion when I forget to say no, and going back to say no afterward
- Literally moving slowly
- Sleeping more, and waking when my body wants to
- Exiting spaces that brought me more anxiety and worry than rest
- Being in community spaces where I am witnessed and rest is honoured.
- Laying down the urge to over-explain when I say no or leave or otherwise take my rest.
**I also acknowledge that many of us are not yet able to rest, while looking to a time when we have the support and safety of community around us to rest and heal together.
If you could gift yourself a bit of rest today, what might it be?
GRIEF IS NOT THE SAME THING AS SUFFERING
Walking the decolonising/reindigenising path comes with challenges.
Some of the ones I hear about over and over, and experience myself, are the loneliness, lack of community, your family not understanding why you choose certain things, colleagues and former classmates wondering why you’re “wasting” your education not getting that high paying job at the UN… your teaching and offerings don’t land with the people you’re trying to reach, they say its too expensive, they don’t think any of it has value, they tell you to market in ways misaligned with your soul’s purpose….
Did any or all of this resonate?
Breathe. Breathe again.
This is my reality in many ways as well. It is painful. In it I see the result of years of colonial education, western aspiring brainwashing, capitalism squeezing possibilities of life to minimum, religiosity cancelling our cultures, family traumas drowning our self love….
For a year or more now, while I have been back home and committed to doing this reindigenising work at home, I have been suffering from this painful reality.
But I realised recently that I don’t have to.
When I gave it bodily expression in different processes, suffering looked like shaking my open fist, or shaking someone back and forth. Frustration. Control. (Aside, notice moments in your life and in people around you when shaking your head, fist, or open hand is the response to something). I wanted things and people to be different. And they weren’t.
I have learnt over these past weeks, that how I am in relationship with the reality around me and the pain it creates, is a choice I can make. Where I stand in relationship to realities that are frustrating, painful, and which I wish were different, is up to me.
If I stand in one place, I am suffering from the pain, angry at it, resentful, judging it, wanting it to not exist. From this controlling place, I can’t move, and I definitely can’t bring anyone along with me either.
I can move
and I can
to move with me
If I stand in another place, I can witness (see honestly), be present with the pain and grieve, and it will teach me how to transform myself so I can invite different realities to exist in the world. Here I release control, and am in empathy, love and desire. I can move. And I can invite others to move with me.
Grief is truly not suffering, it is the opposite. It is how to be with pain in ways that transform and expand capacity for something else.
BELOW IT ALL IS LOVE
A mountain of feeling. These past months have awakened grief like no other, and thankfully also brought with them numerous lessons on how to grieve. How to be with grief.
This is how I think of my anger or frustration (also insert other feelings like bitterness, disappointment that may be a more common manifestation for you), and my grief about the realities that I live within locally and globally. The colonised Western/Whiteness aspiring reality, the unaware of continued coloniality reality, the intentional placing of Afrika at the bottom of a world system reality, the “what good is the past anyway” reality, the “we’ll speak decoloniality but not live it” reality, the “we’ll use you, your traditions, your labour as a means to our ends” reality, and all the pain brought up by encounters with these realities in my family, on the street, in the matatus, in collaborations, etc.
I think of anger and grief as a mountain (please appreciate my attempts at illustrating this). Anger and frustration are visible as hot lava, smoke and ash eruptions. If they have been suppressed for too long, they can quite literally blow the top off the mountain with their power. Hot lava, smoke and ash destroy as well as build. They will cover everything, but eventually the mountain grows and new soil is formed. The eruption enables what is in the core to come forth.
Grief is for me the immensity and depth of the mountain. The fecundity of darkness that can feel thick, heavy and enclosing, and at other times thick, wrapped around and nurturing.
When I have been in grief and supported to truly be in grief about the painful realities I live within (not suffering, see above), it has felt like being within this mountain space. The mountain sits there, it IS. It isn’t moving, it commands my presence and attention.
I break down often, and realise my breaking down is a breaking open. To love.
Below my anger, frustration, bitterness, etc. Below my grief. When I am able to and supported to be open, through rituals of various kinds, I meet the centre of the Earth. I meet my love. My love for myself, my love for my people, my love for ancestors, my love for the Earth. In the messy myriad ways in which we are lost, in which we are finding ourselves, in which we are finding each other. I love us.
I sink into this mountain so that when I rise out of it, my anger knows where it’s coming from. It comes from love. My grief knows where it is connected to. It’s connected to love. From this space my anger and my grief are powerful manifestations of love. From this space, it doesn’t matter so much how others stereotype and put down or try shove into boxes my anger or my grief. I can go down and get more love for myself, for my people, for Earth, for ancestors.
~~ p.s. if you hang out on Instagram come follow me there for the latest @_fromtheroots