We human being are social beings. We come into this world as the result of other’s actions. We survive here in dependence on others… ~Dalai Lama
It seems like nowadays we sometimes use the term “tribe” as a cutesy way of talking about girlfriends getting together for wine and good times, which is an uplifting way to view your relationships with friends. However, the concept of tribe originates from a much deeper set of responsibilities and commitments to the members of that tribe. It is about survival.
I am not saying that your friendships are not deeply committed to you, but when you are in the grips of grief – the kind of grief where your world feels as if it was blown apart and totally destroyed – you need at least a few people who are absolutely and unequivocally committed to holding you up and walking arm and arm with you, as you slowly start piecing your life back together little by little.
In a traditional sense, tribes consist of not only immediate family members but also extended families that spanned generations. The elders hold the wisdom and experiences to guide the younger members with a clear knowing that life will continue even under the greatest of adversity – they are the living proof of what survival consists of.
Tribes have leaders and spiritual mentors where the focus is on healing not only the mind and body but also, and most importantly, the spirit. In a traditional sense, they would often spend time within a circle of support. Women holding space for one another as they silently wove their blankets or baskets. Ceremonial grief circles were formed where drumming, dancing and wailing ensued. Death was dealt with in a very public way as the mourners were surrounded by the tribe. They did not minimize or ignore the pain of loss – they embraced it – because acknowledging and embracing the death of their loved one allowed healing to occur.
One of the exercises I go through with my clients, is to have them choose two to three key people they know they can depend on. Two to three people who are totally devoted to supporting her in a way that allows her to grieve without judgment, who gently takes her by the hand to guide and support her to move forward in her healing journey, and who is courageous enough to lovingly call her on her crap when she is acting out in ways that are not serving her.
These are the people who will tie one end of the rope around her waist and the other around theirs, to ensure she does not plummet down the cliff into a black hold of despair without a safety cord securely attached to her.
Side note: Immediate family members are the ones who we may automatically turn to for support in times of darkness, but the reality is, they too are grieving deeply and may not have the capacity to be fully present and engaged. I highly recommend choosing your tribal members from outside of your immediate family. It may be a good personal friend or two, someone that you connected with at a support group, and perhaps your therapist or a coach.
This is what I know: Grieving moms who have a strong support network in place consisting of people outside of their immediate families, tend to be able to move forward in their grief in a way that eases some of their pain and helps them take those initial steps forward as they begin the healing in their grief.
For a free copy of my book How Do I Survive? 7 Steps For Living After Child Loss, go to www.patsheveland.com to download the book today.