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Grief Rituals in Our Communities: Partnering with our Ancestors to Compost our Grief


Greif Ritual DanceWhy a grief ritual?

We all experience pain and loss in life – conflict, illness, disappointed dreams, broken relationships, loved ones who die or suffer, even inherited or ancestral pain…. Having healthful ways to release that pain and regularly cleanse that space inside ourselves, helps prevent that old pain from smothering our creativity, our joy, and our ability to connect with others. Its impact affects our health, and can even kill us.

One way to work on this is to participate in a grief ritual, such as the kind Sobonfu Somé leads according to her own tradition from Burkina Faso, West Africa. This ritual is a transformational, soul-invigorating ceremony designed to break through cultural barriers to experiencing grief.


Periodically feeling and expressing grief in order to purge hurtful and painful experiences provides enormous emotional relief. In a culture where endemic suppression and denial of grief has been linked to life crises in all realms—spiritual, mental, emotional and physical, to begin to regain a serious and lasting connectedness with ourselves and with spirit, we need to find a proper place to release our grief.

The traditional Dagara of Burkina Faso conduct their ritual of grief regularly in different parts of the tribe, releasing tensions caused by loss and restoring continuity in relationships. What community can’t benefit when its members learn to honor and move through life’s harder moments?

Sobonfu Somé

The School of Integrated Living is honored to sponsor Sobonfu Somé in November, coming to Western North Carolina to facilitate a grief ritual. She brings a timely message about the importance of spirit, community, and ritual in our lives.

ancestors, grief ritual, School of Integrated Living, Sobonfu Somé

NikiAnne Feinberg

NikiAnne (she/her) was born and raised on a horse and cattle ranch on the ancestral lands of the Salinan people in the Central Coast of California. She currently lives at Earthaven Ecovillage on unceded lands of the Catawba and Cherokee (Tsalagi) people. Her ancestors come from Eastern and Western Europe — France, Germany, and English Isles as well as Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia, from Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Throughout the last two decades, NikiAnne has been immersed in community and in service to a wide range of educational endeavors focused on nature connection, personal empowerment, and community resilience. NikiAnne considers herself the grease and glue – that which helps things run smoothly or holds things together. Before co-founding SOIL in 2012, she worked and traveled through much of Asia, the Americas, and Europe, which made her formal education at George Washington University in International Affairs come alive in ways that can only happen through personal experience and relationships. Collectively, these experiences have undeniably shaped her cooperative cultural values and commitment to supporting leaders to think, feel, act and design from a foundation rooted in interrelationship. No matter what she’s teaching, NikiAnne is always on the same mission: to raise awareness of our whole selves – gifts, passions, blind spots, shadows – and help those whole selves find and fill niches in their communities. This is how the web of life is woven, and the fabric of culture repaired. She’s especially eager to support those in transition – between vocations, stages of life, and stories of world and self. Within this context, she is particularly passionate about community grief tending and death care midwifery.

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