Death, Prayer, Social Issues

A Short Ritual of Grief


It’s beginning to be too much, and I have the privilege of looking away when I feel overwhelmed. I’m white. I will never know the depths of the grief of black families and other families of color as their loved ones are murdered every day on the streets simply for existing. I cannot know it. But I still grieve with them.

This was a spontaneous ritual I did last night, that I wanted to share. The words are the best recreation I can come to what was in my heart when I spoke. You don’t have to use my words, you can use your own.

I took a shower in the dark.

It wasn’t full dark; the room attached to the shower has a night light, and there’s a window above the tub with a street light that shines in. The opaque shower-curtain cut to the size of the window blocked much of that light, but not a lot. Not as much as I would have liked. Personally, I would have preferred if the only light came from the night light in the next room. I’m comfortable enough with my bathroom and my shower routine that I feel I could have moved around before and after without trouble.

If you do this, I urge you to create as much or as little light as you are comfortable with, but to keep your safety in mind.

I turned the heat up. Hot but not scalding. I washed. And then I stood with my head bowed and I thought of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and I thought about Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. I thought of all the other names I could remember, and apologized silently for the ones I could not. I cried.

And I spoke from my heart:

Mother, I grieve.
I grieve for these people whose lives ended too soon.
I grieve for their families.
I grieve that they must know this pain.
Mother, I am angry.
I am angry that this has happened again, and will happen again.
I am angry because there is no justice. Will be no justice.
I am angry because I feel helpless.
But Mother, I know that my grief, my anger, my sorrow, my fire
is secondary to that of these families and friends who have lost a loved one;
Secondary to the black and other people of color who live with this every day.
I know that their grief, their anger, their sorrow, their fire is primary,
and must come first.
But Mother, if my grief, my anger, my sorrow, my fire can add to theirs and help,
then let it be so.
If it cannot, then let it and me stand to the side,
stand in support, and love.

When my heart was empty, I stood under the water with my eyes closed, enveloped in darkness, and warmth, until the heat started to fade.

If this helps you, then modify it to your needs.

To the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and all the others, I hear you. I see you. I witness as you fight for your lives. I strive to stand with you when needed and to the side in support and love when not.


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