Tears for Fish

In preparation for holding our first Grief Ritual in Sweden end of february, some memories came back that got me on the way of grief and encouraged me to create spaces to griev in community. It is my response to our collective grief, the losses we experience in the world around us in its many forms. It is my way of activism – soulactivism.

Hearing regularly about species that go extinct, I sadly have to say, I got used to it. Exotic names, species I never heard about. Do I get sad when a butterfly I never got a chance to admire or relate to in any way, lost its home on this earth? Hmm, rather not. But a fear is sometimes evoked and some grief of loosing the diverse environment that I enjoy so much. I do remember vividly being in the garden of my friend Miki, standing still and looking full of amazement to a little patch of flowers. The flowers were not as colourful as in other gardens I’ve been before. In a way they were rather unremarkable. Instead of colour, there was an abundance of smells in the air and my amazement came from the many different species of butterflies buzzing around those flowers. Five or six different ones I counted, and suddenly joy blended with grief, because I remembered experiencing this scene as normal when I was a child. In this moment I could feel the loss of biodiversity in my life.

It must have been October 2022, while traveling and checking the news, when I stumbled over the message that the herring in the Baltic sea is facing extinction. The herring! Not an exotic fish I’ve never encountered, but a fish that, even if you grow up far away from coasts like me, you have tasted, heard, sung or read about a dozen times. A fish that is somehow intertwined with our culture. Did I got sad when hearing the herring goes extinct? No. I was shocked, and not for the first time.

When new information is entering our system, it takes some time to evaluate the consequences of it, the impact it might have on our life. When I evaluated the loss of the herring, images of a dead sea and extinct birds came up, question after question but even more than this, there was a feeling of overwhelm. I pushed all the feelings and images away. The evaluation stopped. I knew that in a couple of days there would be space for it where I could give it the attention it deserved.

A couple of days later, I found myself at a grief ritual in the north of Germany that I supported already for some years as part of the team. As usually, we gathered themes of grief, slowly warming up the space. „What about collective grief?“, somebody asked. I remember the answers being rather short and dry. „I want to grieve the loss of biodiversity!“ somebody said. „Me too.“ another voice. „Me too!“ another one. Silence in the room. Nothing more to say, but a lot to feel. Almost everybody could relate to that grief. However, not everybody felt open to that grief. I had to think about the herring. „Yes, I’m gonna grieve for the herring“, I thought.

Another grief session started. A powerful drumming rhythm and a song, that gently invites the grief to come out, just like wood that is carried by the waves and washes up on the beach. At some point, when the intensity was high and the whole group or ‘village’ as we say, was fully awake and present, the person that raised up the question of collective grief stepped forward to the grief altar in our midst. Wordless, another one followed and another one and another one. I was one of them. I cannot remember the exact number, but what I do remember was that we stood in a circle around the fire, with a circle of supportive, singing, drumming, dancing people around us.

The first one raised their voice of grief and one after the other joined in sounds of deep loss, of love, longing, frustration, despair and most often of anger. Polyphonies or rather cacophonies of sorrow, expressing what is too hard to bear by each of us individually. I never ever heard something like this before. For the first time in my life, there was an appropriate reaction to those shocking news messages that enter me and us on a daily basis and to my surprise I suddenly felt harmony and inner peace. I could feel the deep love to all there is, all that is dear to me and that I don’t want to lose. I felt tears running down my cheeks and still do when I write these lines. „We cannot carry it by ourselves“ is the translation of the song that is sung in the background.

I felt exhausted after this grief ritual. And I felt drugged, giggling around, groundlessly happy, my heart being wide open, ready to love even more and the joy of life bubbling up in me like water in a freshly drilled well. Without grief, there is no valuing of what is dear to us. To grieve is soul activism. It is radical as it enables us to love and without love, no peace.

Let’s grieve together!

Next chance: Grief Ritual 22th – 25th of february 2024, Westcoast of Sweden Tell me more…