Grief and Renewal at Solstice

This winter more than ever, Solstice teaches us that no end is ever final.

BY: Starhawk


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As a nation, we are not skilled at grieving. We find it more comfortable to be angry than to be sad. Our grief at the events of 9/11 was truncated early and transformed into the frantic activity of revenge. But grief remains.

The Solstice has much to teach us about grief. At Solstice, we descend into the dark. We can allow ourselves to face those emotions and impulses we generally keep hidden. We can feel the pain and touch the depths, for we know that the time will soon come to rise again, that darkness is always followed by increasing light. Solstice teaches us that everything is a cycle, a dynamic process, and no end is ever final.

Grief is also a process, not a fixed state. Grief begins with shock, sometimes with disbelief, and then with the sheer, raw pain of loss. We may attempt to bargain with the great powers, "Dear Goddess, let her be alive and I will never tell another lie," to prolong hope-think of all the "Missing" posters that plastered the streets of New York for weeks. Part of the process of grief is searching. Just as Demeter wandered the world searching for her lost daughter Kore who had been abducted by the god of the underworld, we look everywhere for our lost loved one, see her face in crowds, find a stranger wearing his familiar gestures.

Grief can lead us to create other losses. We put aside the pain of our lost friend, and then forget where we parked the car and spend hours in frantic searching. We hold ourselves together when we receive the layoff notice, and then cannot find our wallet, or become distraught over a forgotten bag of groceries.

Grief takes time. A life loss is not something we recover from in a day, or a week. A major loss will throw us into at least a year of acute mourning, for we must experience an entire cycle, every holiday and marked date, without the loved one, and grief afresh.

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