There is a phase in the grief process that feels like fragmentation. There are few words that can describe the gut-wrenching pain of this part of grief. Many people say it’s like their self is being torn apart or that the anguish they feel coursing through their body is unbearable.
While I believe everyone experiences grief uniquely, it has been my experience that making room for the expression of anguish and emotional pain, is critical to healing. I believe the rage and howl of grief are legitimate and understandable.
Death is permanent physical separation. As biological creatures we feel this separation profoundly in the very muscles, skeleton, and organs of our body. But creating a safe container (place of empathy, respect, and holding) for howling is an art form. I recommend that if you are in this phase of grief, then you find a guide who can facilitate your natural expression of intense emotion.
Traditional societies had/have mature and well-crafted ways to hold and help individuals whose grief brings them to howling. In fact, one such society, an African tribe, has a saying that when the people start getting angry with each other, it’s time to grieve. There is something to this idea, that if we don’t howl our grief (in safe ways), then we may displace or direct our rage at others who haven’t really done anything to deserve it.
In our society, funerals and memorial ceremonies tend to be containers for the howling of grief. However, many of these rituals have been abridged and don’t feel safe or meaningful enough for some people. As a result, we are faced with creating our own rituals for emotional expression. But emotional expression is only one part of the healing process. We also have to use our minds and reasoning capacities to sort through and make meaning of loss. I support howling out the pain of loss in safe and well-structured containers. But I also encourage cognitively processing the expression of intense feelings with a guide, therapist, counselor or facilitator. In our so-called modern, mainstream society, the traditional medicine man/woman has been replaced by the therapist. A therapist who has been trained and has had significant experience in the expanse and depth of all phases of grief, can be a great help in the recovery process. I find this recovery process to unfold optimally within the context of a solid therapeutic relationship.