How Do We Mourn?

“How do we mourn so many, so much? How do we stay alive and awake? How do we allow joy and belonging to refuel our living?”

How do we mourn the elder, mourn the husband, mourn the wife, mourn the partner, mourn the lover, mourn the mother, mourn the father, mourn the sister, mourn the brother, mourn the daughter, mourn the son, so many, so legion?

How do we stay alive and awake in hurricane winds, earthquakes, fires, and floods of loss and grief? How do we allow joy to refuel our living?

We dress and cover our heads in gossamer white or black or purple or yellow or red. 

We face north. We face west. We face south. We face west. We pour libations. We light the sage. We fan the smoke above our heads, upon our foreheads, our hearts, our feet.  

We pray in thanks giving to our goddesses and gods in the names of our ancestors, our fore-mothers and fore-fathers, all those who have gone before us, those of us still living and those who are coming to us. 

We speak, we cry out the names of our beloveds who recently returned as we pour raw honey into clay or glass jars. When the naming has ended, when the crying out quiets, we seal the jars with cork or lid.

Just before a late setting sun, we go to the unceasing sea or the levees that holds back the surging waters of mighty rivers 

We bring miles and miles of wild flowers and vines we have braided and tied with long grasses. We place our perique tobacco, pipes, flasks of peach and blackberry brandy, smudge pots of sage and rosemary, and candles set on banana leaves to the water’s edge.

We build and light miles and miles of fires along the long wide waters. 

We face the setting sun as it casts it last golden amethyst light. We light the fires until they crackle, pop and dance hot and bright. We walk out into water, enter to our knees. We place our offerings in the waters and light our floating candles. We let our flowers go into the water last.

We walk backward, away from the water. When we reach the edge between water and land, we announce our beloved ones’ arrival, celebrate their welcoming, their return to our original homes.

We cry out their names in farewell, from us, this place, this time, all suffering, into their next journeys, understanding, our pasts are always before us, the places we constantly re–meet. 

And when we have completed our farewells, we shout out into joy all the spaces and places our beloveds occupy within us, their smile, their laugh, their touch, their scent, their brilliant knowings and….….

We feast, we dance, we drum, we sing and we tell stories in the glow of lighted fires, shadows at our backs. We honor our beloved ones gone. We rejoice with each other still here.

We stay until morning’s first light.

We make sure the fires are completely out, pack up and clean up in high regard of our loved ones gone, our earth, ourselves, and each other. We hug. We kiss. We say our goodbyes.

We are filled with the delight, food, drink, drumming, dancing, laughing, stories, each other, and we become weary. And, we still grieve as the minutes, the hours, the days, the months, and the years pass. 

And, we live.

We live because life and joy fuel our stubborn biological, psychic and spiritual insistence that we go on. 

We do not forget. We never forget. 

Joy is Still What We Do

It is Five Months Later:

The US CDC reported 31.0 million cumulative cases and 559,172 deaths. After leveling off briefly, potentially as a result of delayed reporting over the Easter holiday weekend, daily incidence is again increasing, up to 67,653 new cases per day, the highest average since February 19 and back above the summer 2020 peak.

US Vaccination

The US has distributed 238 million doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and administered nearly 190 million doses. The US is currently administering an average of 2.9 million doses per day*, including 1.4 million people fully vaccinated.

– From Johns Hopkins daily update.

Nearly 250 women have been fatally shot by police since …

Joy is What We Do

Now, right now, we must live our lives consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively, like the Marge Piercy Poem, To Have Without Holding. We must make life-giving use of everything in us that that struggles, survives and triumphs over that which hurts us, divides us, attempts to kill us. We mix the poultices, soups and teas from the herbs of our mother’s and grandmother’s gardens. We bathe and soak in the scents of healing salts and herbs. We pray, and meditate, and dance, and drum, and sing. 

We make our homes and our close circles as healthy and whole and welcoming and nurturing as womanly and humanly possible. We love each other and touch each other in every way we can. We listen to each other. We hear each other. We forgive each other. We reconcile with each other. We eat and move and pray and sleep and wake up in the arc of each other’s love. 

We take requisite care in every part of our lives that we have control of, our hearts, bodies, minds, souls, our work, our creativity, our contributions of money, time, and resources, whatever they may be.

We insist on joy–yes, joy– in these times that call out for us to go deaf, dumb, blind, and silent in self-loathing and hatefulness because of our complicity in our own undoing and death. 

We bask in joy every time the morning comes, a child laughs, our meals are prepared in love, our small circle of friends and family gather physically, but not socially, distanced, and every time nature shows herself vibrant abandon. 

We require joy in every privileged breath we take, clean water we drink, and safe passages we happen to have because of race, class, education, age, gender, immigration status, faith practice, affectional preference, however, relative they may be, and we gladly acknowledge our power and share our advantage with those not privileged by systemic racism, misogynoir, anti-Semitism, xenophobia……

We command joy in the presence of all that there is to rationally fear, despair, and give up on. 

We prepare, and make, and consume, and share this compulsion to live, to be the antidote, joy, physical, emotional, creative, sexual, sensual, psychic and spiritual joy, for and with ourselves and each other. 

We loving ourselves. We find the joy that is always as much available to us as are our rational fears, our past and current pain, and the disabling forces that besiege us all. 

Joy is an antitoxin, a serum, a counter-measure, a cure for physical and emotional violence and disabling disempowerment. 

Joy delivers breath to our cells and transforms our breath into fuel that awakens and enlivens us to create just and free lives and more joy.  

And what else do we do?

We write, we create, and we tell the stories.

Fatal Force: Police shootings database Washing Post Updated April 14, 2021

And what else?

We celebrate our dead. We bury or cremate our dead. We mourn our dead. We give emotional and practical support to the family and friends of the dead, now, during the week, during the month, during the year… AND 

We Get in Good Trouble

Speak Up, condemn speech that is bigoted or hateful. Confront, acknowledge, apologize, and change these behaviors within ourselves, always, always, first, within ourselves.

Become a Racial Equity Broker

“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu and someone is eating you for lunch,” Shirley Chisolm said. She also said,” If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” 

Never Give Up 

John Lewis taught us persistence. He taught us …”when a person has transformative ideas, they should not taper those ideas. Instead, they should persist. Simply because change is slow does not mean change agents have to move slowly towards it.” 

First and second and third, we must find ways to act in authentic, powerful, and productive ways to preserve and advance our own lives. 

Next and next and next, do everything we can do to positively, productively, lovingly and proactively impact the lives of our families, neighbors, communities, country, our world with the urgency and ferocity fuels our insistence on life and joy. Give thought, time, resources, and acts of assistance and resistance. Learn and use the tools of activism and the democratic defense of our own bodies, our nation, and our world.

We Vote, We fight Legislation to Suppress and Erase Our Votes, We Create and Pass  Legislation to Protect and Expand the Vote, We convince  Corporations to boycott states that deny Voter Access and the full count and representation of our vote without partisan interference or chicanery. 

We prepare now to vote in 2014 and all the elections between now and then. 

A Love Song for You

Allow this song in your body, mind and heart as if you are singing it you yourself and lifting yourself up. 

Lizz Wright: Freedom – YouTube

I go down my to-do list of self-care: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home–except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with a mask. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Read and study more. Laugh a lot. Channel fear, grief, and rage into expression, action, and art. I continue to chronicle these times.

In Joy and Doing,


© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA