I am an animist, which means I recognize and tend to reciprocal relationships with not only human people, but with the more-than-human world – the ancestors, spirits of land, animal people, mountain people, tree and stone people, plant people, weather people, and other beings of and within the world that we humans are just one aspect of.
Animism is a set of core relational values, and it is something that is learned and practiced, not innate.
We all have ancestors who were actively engaged in earth-honoring animist ways of being and relating in the world - even if we have to look many generations back into our lineage. Animist ways of living may look different depending on our ancestral roots, because ways of being relational and respectful are different among diverse cultures, geographical communities and landscapes. However, animist values do reside in our bones and being. They can be re-learned.
I am continuously learning how to be in healthier, deeper, reciprocal relationship with the vast community of beings around me, including humans. This involves healing work from both personal and ancestral trauma and wounds, and also layers of de-conditioning from growing up in a dominant western culture that treats the world and nature as resources for extraction and personal pleasure/gain.
I am committed to this path of coming into right relationship. And I am thankful for the language of animism to be able to express these relational values.
This means that the grief support and healing work I do in the world is also animist-informed.
When it comes to grief, I have learned from others and through direct experience that grief is relational. We need relational tending to heal. Grief needs release so it can be transformed, but it also needs containment through witnessing so that the depth of emotions can be held in a transformative way. Without containment, our grief has nowhere to release to transform into life-affirming energy. I write more about this here.
I am passionate about bringing community back to grief healing - and not just living human community! This is why I lead community grief rituals, bringing both human people together to share, witness and grieve collectively while calling in the support of our deeply well ancestors, guides and benevolent powers to assist with the healing container.
There is a vast community of other-than-humans that can provide healing relationships, support, witnessing and containment through the depths of our grief.
For me, when I am held within a community of tree people, my nervous system and soul know that I am being held deeply, and that this offers a transformative container for healing.
This is different than “seeing nature as a therapeutic modality”, which would still subtly make nature an object for my needs and convenience. Rather, I am actively communicating with the tree people through ritual, respectful introductions, offerings, and requests. I am listening for their responses. I am also open to hearing “no” and not taking it personally. I am asking if they are willing to hold me for some time in my needs and grief expressions, and I am following up with gratitude – usually through song.
This is just one example. Many of us will already have affinities to different other-than-human folks – such as mountain, ocean, stone, rose, elk, wolf, etc. This is a beautiful starting ground for nurturing new avenues of relational being and healing.
I believe it is a gift of reciprocity and intimacy for us human folks to include an invitation to the other-than-human beings to be a part of our healing and transformation. This deepens our intimacy. And when we become intimate, our bonds deepen and we show up more fully for one another.
Reciprocal tending - this is relational healing. This is what grief needs. This is what our world needs.
When it comes to offering grief support to other human people, I am committed to including the voices and possibilities of healing support from the more-than-human world. I offer guidance, ritual, empathic attunement, and therapeutic skills to nurture meaningful, transformative and healing containers available from a diverse community of people, human and otherwise.
Some resources of interest:
Animism- Respecting the Living World. Graham Harvey
The Wild Edge of Sorrow - Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. Francis Weller
Ancestral Medicine – Rituals for Personal and Family Healing. Daniel Foor.
Shauna Janz, MA is a teacher, mentor, and facilitator at the crossroads of grief, trauma, ritual and ancestral healing. She is the founder of Sacred Grief offering immersive online programs for folks interested in deepening their skills in these areas.
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