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The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller
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The Wild Edge of Sorrow Quotes Showing 1-30 of 53
“Grief and love are sisters, woven together from the beginning. Their kinship reminds us that there is no love that does not contain loss and no loss that is not a reminder of the love we carry for what we once held close.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“My daily practice is to wake and immediately bring my attention to this thought: “I am one day closer to my death. So how will I live this day? How will I greet those I meet? How will I bring soul to each moment? I do not want to waste this day.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“At the core of this grief is our longing to belong. This longing is wired into us by necessity. It assures our safety and our ability to extend out into the world with confidence. This feeling of belonging is rooted in the village and, at times, in extended families. It was in this setting that we emerged as a species. It was in this setting that what we require to become fully human was established. Jean Liedloff writes, "the design of each individual was a reflection of the experience it expected to encounter." We are designed to receive touch, to hear sounds and words entering our ears that soothe and comfort. We are shaped for closeness and for intimacy with our surroundings. Our profound feelings of lacking something are not reflection of personal failure, but the reflection of a society that has failed to offer us what we were designed to expect. Liedloff concludes, "what was once man's confident expectations for suitable treatment and surroundings is now so frustrated that a person often thinks himself lucky if he is not actually homeless or in pain. But even as he is saying, 'I am all right,' there is in him a sense of loss, a longing for something he cannot name, a feeling of being off-center, of missing something. Asked point blank, he will seldom deny it.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“I’m not sure how or when I began my apprenticeship with sorrow. I do know that it was my gateway back into the breathing and animate world. It was through the dark waters of grief that I came to touch my unlived life. . . . There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness, some sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive. Through this, I have come to have a lasting faith in grief.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Imagine the feeling of relief that would flood our whole being if we knew that when we were in the grip of sorrow or illness, our village would respond to our need. This would not be out of pity, but out of a realization that every one of us will take our turn at being ill, and we will need one another. The indigenous thought is when one of us is ill, all of us are ill. Taking this thought a little further, we see that healing is a matter, in great part, of having our, connections to the community and the cosmos restored. This truth has been acknowledged in many studies. Our immune response is strengthened when we feel our connection with community. By regularly renewing the bonds of belonging, we support our ability to remain healthy and whole.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“When our grief cannot be spoken, it falls into the shadow and re-arises in us as symptoms. So many of us are depressed, anxious, and lonely. We struggle with addictions and find ourselves moving at a breathless pace, trying to keep up with the machinery of culture.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Silence is a practice of emptying, of letting go. It is a process of hollowing ourselves out so we can open to what is emerging. Our work is to make ourselves receptive. The organ of receiving is the human heart, and it is here that we feel the deep ache of loss, the bittersweet reminders of all that we loved, the piercing artifacts of betrayal, and the sheer truth of impermanence. Love and loss, as we know so well, forever entwined.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Still, the ground beneath me felt unsteady, as though at any moment it could shake and easily take me to the ground. I stumbled upon what Zen priest and author Susan Murphy calls the koan of the earth. How do we answer the riddle of our times? How do we sift through the shards of our broken culture, our fragmented psyches, and come once again into “our original undividedness and the freedom it bestows, right there in the suffocating fear itself.”90 This was the question at the heart of my despair, ripening in the vessel of my sorrow. What felt different this time was the interior experience of the grief and despair. It was not centered on personal losses—my history, wounds, losses, failures, and disappointments. It was arising from the greater pulse of the earth itself, winding its way through sidewalks and grocery lists, traffic snarls and utility bills. Somewhere in all the demands of modern life, the intimate link between earth and psyche was being reestablished or, more accurately, remembered. The conditioned fantasy of the segregated self was being dismantled, and I was being reunited, through the unexpected grace of fear, despair, and grief, with the body of the earth.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Rebecca del Rio offers a poem, “Prescription for the Disillusioned,” as an invitation to renewal and beginnings. Come new to this day. Remove the rigid overcoat of experience, the notion of knowing, the beliefs that cloud your vision. Leave behind the stories of your life. Spit out the sour taste of unmet expectation. Let the stale scent of what-ifs waft back into the swamp of your useless fears. Arrive curious, without the armor of certainty, the plans and planned results of the life you’ve imagined. Live the life that chooses you, new every breath, every blink of your astonished eyes.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Coming to trust the darkness takes time and often involves many visits to this land. Our arrival here is rarely a chosen thing. We are thrown into the darkness or are carried there on the back of a blue mood. What we make of this visit is up to us. Recalling that the darkness is also a dwelling place of the sacred allows us to find value in the descent. In this place of lightlessness, we develop a second sight.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“In the absence of this depth of community, the safe container is difficult to find. By default, we become the container ourselves, and when this happens, we cannot drop into the well of grief in which we can fully let go of the sorrows we carry. We recycle our grief, moving into it and then pulling it back into our bodies unreleased. Frequently in my practice patients tell me that they often cry in private. I ask them whether, at some point in this process, they ever allow their grief to be witnessed and shared with others. There is usually a quick retort of “No, I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else.” When I push it a little further and ask them how it would feel if a friend came to them with his or her sorrows and pain, they respond that they would feel honored to sit with their friend and offer support. This disconnection between what we would offer others and what we feel we can ask for is extreme. We need to recover our right to ask for help in grief, otherwise it will continue to recycle perpetually. Grief has never been private; it has always been communal. Subconsciously, we are awaiting the presence of others, before we can feel safe enough to drop to our knees on the holy ground of sorrow.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan uses the term intervulnerability to describe the need for this mutually held space. When asked about this idea in an interview, she replied, When I say we are “intervulnerable,” I mean we suffer together, whether consciously or unconsciously. Albert Einstein called the idea of a separate self an “optical delusion of consciousness.” Martin Luther King Jr. said that we are all connected in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” There’s no way out, though we try to escape by armoring ourselves against pain and in the process diminishing our lives and our consciousness. But in our intervulnerability is our salvation, because awareness of the mutuality of suffering impels us to search for ways to heal the whole, rather than encase ourselves in a bubble of denial and impossible individualism. At this point in history, it seems that we will either destroy ourselves or find a way to build a sustainable life together.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Gudrun Zomerland has written about trauma as “the shaking of a soul.” “The German word for trauma [is] ‘Seelenerschütterung.’ The first part, ‘Seele’ means soul. . . . ‘Erschütterung’ is something that shakes us out of the ordinary flow and out of our usual sense of time into an extraordinary state.”32 Trauma, then, is a soul-shaking experience that ruptures the continuity of our lives and tosses us into an alternate existence. When this soul shaking occurs frequently and early in life, as a result of prolonged neglect, what was originally an extraordinary state gradually becomes ordinary. It is the world as we know it—unsafe, unreliable, and frightening. This is a profound loss and a lingering sorrow that is difficult to hold. The failure of the world to offer us comfort in the face of trauma causes us to retreat from the world. We live on our heels, cautiously assessing whether it is safe to step in; we rarely feel it is. One man I worked with slowly revealed how he expected less than zero from life. He deserved nothing. He had a hard time asking for salt at a restaurant. His persistent image in therapy was of a small boy hiding behind a wall. It was not safe for him to venture into the world. He was terrified of being seen. I know, because I lived this way for forty years, wary and determined to prevent further pain by remaining on the margins of life, untouchable and seemingly safe.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Grief keeps the heart flexible, fluid, and open to others.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
tags: grief, love
“Shame ruptures our connection with life and with our soul. It is, indeed, a sickness of the soul. When feelings of shame arise, we pull back from the world, avoiding contact that could cause or risk exposure. The last thing we want in times of excruciating self-consciousness is to be seen. We find ourselves avoiding the gaze of others, we become silent and withdrawn, all in hopes of slipping under the radar. I remember sharing with the audience that the goal of the shame-bound person was to get from birth to death without ever being an echo on the radar of life. My tombstone was going to read “Safe at Last.” Gershon Kaufman, one of the most important writers on shame, has said that shame leaves us feeling “unspeakably and irreparably defective.”29 It is unspeakable because we do not want anyone to know how we feel inside. We fear it is irreparable because we think it is not something we have done wrong—it is simply who we are. We cannot remove the stain from our core. We search and search for the defect, hoping that that, once found, it can be exorcised like some grotesque demon. But it lingers, remaining there our entire lives, anxious that it will be seen and simultaneously longing to be seen and touched with compassion.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Herein begins the slow, insidious process of carving up the self to fit into the world of adults. We become convinced that our joy, sadness, needs, sensuality, and so forth are the cause of our unacceptability, and we are more than willing to cleave off portions of our psychic life for the sake of inclusion, even if it is provisional. We become convinced, on some basic level, that these pieces of who we are, are not good enough—that they are, in fact, shameful—and we banish them to the farther shore of our awareness in hopes of never hearing from them again. They become our outcast brothers and sisters”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“To alter the amnesia of our times, we must be willing to look into the face of the loss and keep it nearby. In this way, we may be able to honor the losses and live our lives as carriers of their unfinished stories. This is an ancient thought - how we tend the dead is as important as how we tend the living.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“My grief says that I dared to love, that I allowed another to enter the very core of my being and find a home in my heart. Grief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives. To love is to accept the rites of grief.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“It is important to look into the shadows of our lives and to see who lives there, tattered, withered, hungry, and alone. Bringing these parts of soul back to the table is a central element of our work. Ending their exile means releasing the contempt we hold for these parts of who we are. It means welcoming the full range of our being and restoring our wholeness. Until then, we will continue to carry a feeling of worthlessness and brokenness.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“When I first consciously faced my own emptiness, it felt like a sheer drop off a cliff; I could not find the way back up. I was floating in a sea of pain and sorrow that had no words. All I could do was try to welcome what came, weep every day, and let those close to me know what I was going through. I needed to tend and care for this vulnerable place. This well of grief was deeper than anything else I had faced in my life, and the terrain was suffused with emptiness and darkness. There was no one else in this place, no hands to comfort, no arms to hold and support. No other voices could assure me of my connection to the world. I felt utterly alone. Whether or not there is any personal history to this perception is not what is important. What did matter was that I stumbled into this place, and its truth was undeniable. Daily weeping was something I had never experienced before. In fact, I had always been in control of myself emotionally, having shaped a life made up only of the known. I stayed in the well-lit areas, at the shallow end of the pool. I kept other people outside safe peripheries. I had built a strategically controlled life in which I was appreciated and respected. But when I plunged into this place of emptiness, it was like a wall that had been blocking my view was shattered, and I could finally see how I was limiting my life in hopes of avoiding the emptiness.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“To die before we die means that we must become radically honest with ourselves. We must shed the skins that do not foster aliveness. One man, while participating in the first weekend of the Men of Spirit initiation, suddenly realized how conscripted and narrow his life was. At that moment, he jumped out of his chair and flung it across the room in disgust. He clearly saw that he had unwittingly made an agreement to live small and to consistently tell himself what a good life he was living. This realization broke him open to the great well of grief he was carrying in his heart from all the times he had abandoned himself for the sake of fitting in and getting approval.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“This ritual brought us face-to-face with the reality of losing those we love. Letting go is a difficult skill to acquire, and yet we are offered no option but to practice. Every loss, personal or shared, prepares us for our own time of leaving. Letting go is not a passive state of acceptance but a recognition of the brevity of all things. This realization invites us to love fully now, in this moment, when what we love is here.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“David Whyte offers a beautiful poem on the ways we are invited to welcome back the outcast parts of our being. This stanza from “Coleman’s Bed” is filled with self-compassion. Be taught now, among the trees and rocks, how the discarded is woven into shelter, learn the way things hidden and unspoken slowly proclaim their voice in the world. Find that inward symmetry to all outward appearances, apprentice yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back all you sent away, be a new annunciation, make yourself a door through which to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“While we have much to learn from indigenous cultures about forms of rituals and how ritual works, we cannot simply adopt their rituals and settle them neatly onto our psyches. It is important that we listen deeply, once again, to the dreaming earth and craft rituals that are indigenous to us, that reflect our unique patterns of wounding and disconnection from the land. These rituals will have the potency to mend what has been torn, heal what has been neglected. This is one way that we may return to the land and offer our deepest amends to those we have harmed.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Simply said, ritual is any gesture done with emotion and intention by an individual or a group that attempts to connect the individual or the community with transpersonal energies for the purposes of healing and transformation. Ritual is the pitch through which the personal and collective voices of our longing and creativity are extended to the unseen dimensions of life, beyond our conscious minds and into the realms of nature and spirit.
Ritual is a form of direct knowing, something indigenous to the psyche. It has evolved with us, taking knowing into the bone, into our very marrow. I call ritual an embodied process.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“In that moment, I understood powerfully the cost to a child who had to be the one to make the overture of repair. If I hadn’t gone in there, my son would have had to ingest his fear that I did not want to be his father any longer. The worst part of it, however, is that he would have felt it was his fault—if he hadn’t been so exuberant, so needy for my attention, I might still hold him in my heart. He would feel he had to restrain these parts of himself in the future if he was to receive my love once again.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Silence and solitude allow us to move beyond thought and into our embodied experience. Grief is felt, sensed in the viscera of our bellies, the inner walls of our chests, the curve of our shoulders, the heaviness in our thighs. Grief is registered in our sinews and muscles. It feels laboured, as though a great weight has settled on our chest or a heaviness has entered our bones. We know grief by its felt experience; it is tangible. It is here, in our sighing and sensing body, that we encounter the terrain of sorrow.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Approaching sorrow, however, requires enormous psychic strength. For us to tolerate the rigors of engaging the images, emotions, memories, and dreams that arise in times of grief, we need to fortify our interior ground. This is done through developing a practice that we sustain over time. Any form will do—writing, drawing, meditation, prayer, dance, or something else—as long as we continue to show up and maintain our effort. A practice offers ballast, something to help us hold steady in difficult times. This deepens our capacity to hold the vulnerable emotions surrounding loss without being overwhelmed by them. Grief work is not passive: it implies an ongoing practice of deepening, attending and listening. It is an act of devotion, rooted in love and compassion. (See the resources at the end of this book for more on developing the practice of compassion.)”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“Deep in our bones lies an intuition that we arrive here carrying a bundle of gifts to offer to the community. Over time, these gifts are meant to be seen, developed, and called into the village at times of need. To feel valued for the gifts with which we are born affirms our worth and dignity. In a sense, it is a form of spiritual employment - simply being who we are confirms our place in the village. That is one of the fundamental understanding about gifts: we can only offer them by being ourselves fully. Gifts are a consequence of authenticity; when we are being true to our natures, the gifts can emerge.”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“It is challenging to honor the descent in a culture that primary values the ascent. We like things rising—stock markets, the GDP, profit margins. We get anxious when things go down. Even within psychology, there is a premise that is biased toward improvement, always getting better, rising above our troubles. We hold dear concepts like progress and integration. These are fine in and of themselves, but it is not the way psyche works. Psyche, we must remember, was shaped by and is rooted in the foundations of nature. As such, psyche also experiences times of decay and death, of stopping, regression, and being still. Much happens in these times that deepen the soul. When all we are shown is the imagery of ascent, we are left to interpret the times of descent as pathological; we feel that we are somehow failing. As poet and author Robert Bly wryly noted, “How can we get a look at the cinders side of things when the society is determined to create a world of shopping malls and entertainment complexes in which we are made to believe that there is no death, disfigurement, illness, insanity, lethargy, or misery? Disneyland means ‘no ashes.’ ”
Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

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