This week as we consider Ancestral Grief, we conclude our study of the Five gates of Grief outlined by Francis Weller .
Looking at our family trees or our clan origins, we realise that along with their DNA we may have inherited our ancestors’ grief. One of the realities of diverse South Africa is unless your heritage is Khoisan, most of us descend from ancestors who arrived from somewhere else. They were either displaced by the expansion of other tribes who squeezed people further and further south, or by colonial forces that promised struggling Dutch, British and German peasants a better life in a foreign land. Some of us may have servitude and slavery in our heritage, our families brought here simply as units of labour.
And despite the hopes and dreams they brought, they must have carried a deep grief at their loss of land and roots which they had to leave behind.
We are the descendants of aliens and immigrants, those people who arrived here on unfamiliar soil, and whose grief and sadness has found its way into our beings.
These ancient unknown characters also had a part in shaping the world we inherited.
Most people believe there is some form of afterlife where those who have gone before find themselves “in a better place”. This Valhalla, Xanadu or Heaven is imagined as a place where the ancestors share perfect knowledge and insight they never had while alive.
In my Gates of Grief workshops, I encourage participants to imagine their ancestors in this place of full insight, writing a letter of apology to us living now.
We owe it to ourselves and them to recognise the many untruths which we drank in with our mother’s milk and made our own.
Our task in this generation is to examine those beliefs and decide which of them are no longer true nor valid. Then for the sake of our own health we must let them go.
Consider for example the prejudices, suspicion and bigotry they passed on to us. Their violence, sexism, racism, exploitation of women and children and of the earth in general. Their promotion of tobacco smoking, slavery, child labour, and corporal punishment. These misconceptions, errors or deliberate strategies have scarred us and are part of the deep sorrow we carry in our collective unconscious.
Along with the ancient grief in our bones, there may also be our experiences of the grief and loss of our immediate parents and grandparents which we are required to mourn. The Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung wrote, “The greatest burden a child can bear is the unlived life of its parents.” Perhaps our own lives were stunted because our parents projected onto us their unfulfilled agendas and could not allow us to become who we were born to be.
These deep ancestral memories invite us to create rituals of mourning from a past that is asking to be redeemed. To mourn these ancient griefs is sacred work.
You can schedule one on one Skype or Zoom sessions with Peter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org