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In Praise of Grief & the Dying Autumn

We are creeping up on the darkest days of the year. And here, we are invited to bow down, empty out, in grief, in praise of all we’ve been given and all we must give in turn.

The emotion of grief is long associated with the season of Autumn, where we acknowledge and engage with the death portion of the cycle of Life. To grieve is to release. To give back. To allow what has been to move through our bodies, back to the Earth, back to the source of all energy, to be recycled again as new life.

And always, alongside this grief lingers too a blessing, a prayer, a total awe for Life.

In his book, The Smell of Rain on Dust, Martín Prechtel offers a beautiful illustration of how the sisters, grief and praise, cannot coexist without the other. Like symbiotic organisms, these two emotions mutually serve one another, truly cohabiting under the same roof inside the heart. Ultimately, both in service to Love.

As we grieve for what we’ve lost, we praise what once was. As we share praise, we cultivate an eternal gratitude for all that is, which includes loss, death and impermanence.

As Prechtel writes, “without grief, the world would cease to renew itself; the world would cease to exist.” It is in the dying that the seeds of renewal lie, and they are watered by our grief.

I’ve found that this late Autumn season begs for offerings of all kinds. Offerings of our tears of grief. Offerings of song. Offerings of joy and generosity. Offerings are our chance to participate in the ongoing current of reciprocity that flows through all of life.

Reciprocity allows things to stay in balance. Our culture relies heavily on taking. We carelessly and ceaselessly take from the Earth, offering no gratitude or any other form of offering in return. This is part of what has caused such immense imbalance in our world, and prevents us from being in true relationship with the Earth, and hence ourselves.

It is not lost on me how this time of year is traditionally a time for gift giving in many cultures around the world. Gifting born from the utter darkness. Because our ancestors believed in hope. They believed in renewal.

When we give, when we make an offering, we are finding ways to praise, even in the midst of darkness. And through this praise we say to Life that we have trust we will receive in turn. That we will have enough. Hope and trust become animated through our offerings.

So as we come come upon this time once again, a time of deep decay and compost, let us consider that this death is a type of offering. It signals a praise for and deep hope in Life itself continuing on. And let us remember that we, too, are invited to move through this process internally, as mirrors of the Earth herself.

I encourage you to engage in acts of reciprocity over these final few weeks of Autumn. These acts can be as simple or complex as you’re feeling called. It can be a simple smile of gratitude for the sun in the morning. A melodious hum for rain. It can be a pinch of dried herb accompanied by a prayer for the land. It can be an elaborate Earth altar.

Whatever it may be, what I know is that when I shift my mindset to one of reciprocity, everything changes. I find a sense of belonging in relationship with what’s wider than myself. So as we exhale the last part of our breath for the year, let us engage with this season by truly offering ourselves up.


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