Intimate Celebrations

The Intensity of Grief

It can be hard to say goodbye, no matter the circumstances. For a close knit family or community holding an intimate ceremony to share the grief and love can be a powerful way for grief to be witnessed in a safe space. Such was the case for the family of man who died in a car accident recently. Here, in this guided circle, the family could experience that they were not alone at this time.

Everyone’s grief was given a voice and the care it deserved.

I read this poem after I had welcomed everyone and introduced how the ceremony would unfold. It was written for this occasion.


When you hear the news,

Shock floods you.

And your mind scrambles

To know what to do

Other than say:

No. No. No. NO,

Or swear and curse.

A numbness:

This can’t be true—

It’s impossible to believe.

They are not alive anymore.

Pain floods you,

Lifts and carries you

And you cry again.

Doing, you may

Forget. There is so much

To do, but grief comes in waves

And keeps coming

And each wave is the first.


You know by the ache in your bones:

They’ve gone.

You sleep and maybe rest.

And when you wake…

The memory wakes with you, and

Another wave of grief rolls in.

You tumble, you dive,

You learn to ride

The waves .


The ceremony began with one person speaking and soon after, everyone’s voice had been heard. Outside, the sun set behind the mountains and a magpie joined us on the deck. The relief from sharing was palpable.

Inspired by the quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn, ‘You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them.’
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