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Of Grief and Gratitude

Paris. Mali. Syria. Beirut. Russian plane in Sinai.
Like you, I have been continually heartbroken, shocked, and overwhelmed by the horrific acts of terrorism in the past few weeks.
And noticing, inside myself, that when I begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless, a part of me wants to shut down, to hide.
To turn away.
To turn off.
To do anything but turn on to the feelings that I have.

We have all been taught to turn off, turn away.
Turn away from the homeless person begging for change. Turn off from the impact of climate change that we each deepen with our daily actions and inactions.

No one had to teach us to turn off. Our patriarchal world culture models it with actions so much louder than words.

Part of the responsibility and privilege of the feminine is to not just hear the news – but to feel it, deeply.

At the School of Womanly Arts, one of the core aspects of the feminine we study is Grief.
Immersing ourselves in it.
Embodying it.
Wallowing, you might say.
Exploring its depth, breadth and darkest reaches.
And finding the places where it unites and alchemizes with radiance.

Picture this: last weekend, 900 women head to Miami for fun, sun, sisterhood, connection, flirtation.
We are all so excited and so, so ready. (If you missed it, our next introductory weekend will be opening for registration soon.)
And Friday night, a few hours before our event, Paris is attacked by terrorists.
We learn of the destruction after Friday’s session.
We all listen, watch and read all the news reports. Heartbroken.

The next morning, a woman from Paris came forward to participate in one of the exercises, wondering what she was doing here, in Miami, with us . . . while her country was bleeding. Some of her close family members were at the stadium the night before, when the terrorists attacked.

How could we navigate this, in community?
We are all Paris. We are all those victims’ mothers. We are all suffering the impact.
This is the power and responsibility of Sisterhood.
This was an opportunity for all of us to do what is desperately needed in our broken world – which was to grieve, together, as a community of 900 women who had just met the day before.

Turning on to our grief is not easy.
We are not used to it.
So many of us were taught to back away from our strong emotions.
So many of us were taught to keep a lid on anything and everything outrageous. To turn it off.
So many of us find our strong emotions – embarrassing. Ridiculous, even.
We are inexperienced.

For many of us, the last time we threw ourselves on the floor, lost in anguish and despair, was when we were two. And for that, we were each probably reprimanded.
So we learned to stop allowing our bodies to feel.

But, in Sisterhood, each of us can find our way back to ourselves.
We can hold the space to move through the awkwardness and turn ourselves back on to feel the feelings that we have pushed down and pushed away.

Soon, every woman in that room was released to her way of grieving. Full on sobbing. Wailing. Howling. Rolling around the floor. Silently weeping. Moving it through her body, with dance. With anguish. Being held in the arms of her sisters from all over the world.

We let it rip. For all of our brothers and sisters, internationally. For all the times we could not grieve in our lives. Turning on. Feeling our feelings, right here, right now. For the fucking thrill and righteousness of weeping out loud in sisterhood.

From that shared experience of turning on our grief, we could go on. We could continue, and carry on with the depth and breadth of the curriculum.

Holding the tragedy, deeply – while holding the joy of connection, and the spell of the sensual, just as devoutly.
And each of us being flooded by the overwhelming privilege that it is to be alive.
Turning on to the rapture in the rupture.
Moving from the deepest intelligence of our bodies.
Living the antidote to terror, the antidote to fear, the antidote to feeling alone.
Turning on to our shared grief set us free to honor life, even more deeply.

After we grieved together, we had a dance party that nearly lifted the roof off of the Convention Center. So much joy, so much gratitude, so much celebration.

The quality of this celebration was incandescently, heart-breakingly beautiful, because it was so deeply soaked in the grief of all that we have lost in this world. Which makes what we have oh so very – almost unbearably – precious.

Here, in the words of one of my greatest teachers, from his new book, The Smell of Rain on Dust:

“Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.” – Martin Prechtel

I am so grateful to have a community of sisters who give each other permission to feel and celebrate every drop of what it means to be alive.

There is so much tragedy in the world right now.
The gift of the feminine is to turn on.

Turn on to feeling what is there for you to feel. Because inside that grieving is your transformation, your connection to your divine, and the ability to make the sacred connection to gratitude for the gift of life.

Terrorism sends out the virulent condition of fear. Which results in turning off feelings and emotional connection.
Which leads down the road to more and more disconnection.
And more and more terrorism.

To choose to turn your grief on is to take a radical step.
It is a difficult step, a courageous step.

Our sister from Paris said that when she began grieving that morning, she felt ridiculous, at first. But then, her body found its way. And then, she could surrender to the volcano of feelings that wanted expression, in the arms and presence of sisterhood.

She saw that the reason she had come to the event was in order to be able to bring back this permission to grieve, to her family and friends in Paris.

It is only through our deeply felt grief that we can really and truly connect to gratitude. Which allows each of us to live more deeply, more preciously, and more radiantly.

This Thanksgiving, I am going to leave an empty chair at my dinner table, to remind myself and my loved ones of all of the sweet, good, hard, hot life that has been lost this year. And to remind us to not be afraid to turn on to feel every drop of the sadness and pain that is ours to feel.

To feel the grief of all that has been lost is to expand your experience of all the beauty and wonder and joy of the sheer radiant rapture of life, itself.

We can do this.
We can choose to turn on to our grief, and by so doing, turn on to our gratitude.
We can reweave the web of interconnectedness between every living being on this earth, by choosing to turn back on.

In the comments, I’d so love to hear your thoughts . . .

  • How can you use this upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving, (whether you live in the US or not), to fully embody and express the emotions that are inside you?
  • How are grief and gratitude living inside you, side by side, right now?
  • Who will keep an empty place at their holiday table for all the lives that have been lost this year? And who will praise life, with me, this Thanksgiving?


Tell me how you rupture, how you rapture.
Tell me how will we breathe, give thanks, and celebrate together?
How does the knowing live within your body?

In love, grief, and gratitude,

p.s. If you’ve been curious about the work we do at the School, come and feel it. Our next introductory weekend, called The Experience, is opening for registration soon. This event tends to fill very quickly, so if you think you might like to attend, click here to get on the list for email updates.

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25 Comments / Leave a Comment

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  • http://www./ November 4, 2016, 7:29 pm

    Sublime, fantástico, increíble, parece cosa de magia…En España no creo que triunfe porque la gente es muy rara pero dadme la oportunidad y a unos alquimistas como vosotros los hago de oro en Azeroth

  • lisa November 26, 2015, 8:05 am

    Dear Mama,
    I’ve been following you in glorious Sister Goddess style for over a decade (geez am I that young!). I even remember graduations in your UWS brownstone – you and all the women who shared your passion space electrified the city. And you still do. I have come a long way and I knew I had “arrived” into my amazing passion-flower-goddess power when my divinely matched love all on his own nick-named me “goddess” (well there’s more to the name but that’s between us;)). Anyway, I am forever grateful. Wishing you an amazing and abundant holiday season. 2016 wish – take your boot camp, have a latte with you and have more juicy juice to share.
    x Sister Goddess Lisa

  • SG Magical November 26, 2015, 2:17 am

    Dear Mama Gena, you touched that was locked away. For a while I had lost joy. Reading this, tears came up, a release, a relief and i can feel joy again. Thank you…

  • SG Lovingly Juicy Lucy November 25, 2015, 4:39 am

    Hello Mama Gena and SG’s around the world.
    These words touch me deeply:
    “Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.” – Martin Prechtel

    November is the month my dad died and December the month my mom died, all those years ago. These words help me embrace a deeper understanding why I feel deep grief each year at this time, for the passing of my parents. Yes, my grief is my praise, thank you mom and dad for all your love.

  • Cintra Krän November 24, 2015, 11:13 pm

    I really appreciated you sharing this experience and writing about grief, gratitude and interconnectedness.
    How important it is to let ourselves feel what we feel in these turbulent and intense times. Maybe in fact
    these intense times are here to help us connect back with our feelings and interconnectedness. Thank you
    for being a light, for being honest, for speaking the truth, for inspiring and supporting us to feel what we feel.
    Thank you for telling us the truth that we haven’t felt our grief since we were two and then were reprimanded
    for it. Thank you for telling us that we are unexperienced and that we can support each other to feel the grief and the fear
    again. That we can reclaim our natural ability to feel that has been suppressed so many years. Much love, Cintra

  • Scarlet Sparkle November 24, 2015, 10:31 pm

    I was one of those women in the room and what a relief to be able to grieve on that level. My soul needed that and needs more of it!
    Thank you for an unforgettable experience in Miami!
    With love,

  • Katariina November 24, 2015, 8:57 am

    I will have an empty chair at the table for Thanksgiving. My grief and gratitude are alive dancing together in union -turned on.

    You gave me an extraordinary gift in Miami when you invited us to grieve with our whole bodies not as a performance but as the embodiment of grief. We throbbed with sorrow and mourned our losses collectively that weekend not once but twice and it was excruciating and ecstatic. Martin Prechtal has been whisperin to me for years now through his books and recordings. To have you mention him brought tears to my eyes. I feel I’m coming full circle. Thank you for this invitation to make this holiday extraordinary. I am eternally grateful for you and your wisdom.

  • Diane November 24, 2015, 7:52 am

    Yes, that wailing and howling in Miami was beyond what my words can describe. Some wept. Some howled. Some wailed. Some were prostrate on the ground. Some beat chairs. Some of us merely held space for those who were far more demonstrative.

    The woman from Paris had so much courage to open that door for all of us.

    I won’t be at my own table for Thanksgiving, so I’m not sure if I can leave an empty chair, but I will remember and grieve.

    I’ll grieve for all the women in the world who are subjected to cruel abuse and being dismissed.

    I’ll grieve for the rise of fascism in America, and especially for my own state of Texas. This must be what Germany was like just prior to the rise of the Nazis.

    I’ll grieve for perfectly good men who don’t know how much they’re being brainwashed by an overblown patriarchy.

    I’ll grieve for those who resist and give up their lives in the process.

    I’ll grieve for those who must live with paralyzing fear.

  • Foxy November 24, 2015, 6:29 am

    Oh, that moment in Miami was so incredibly powerful.

  • Sister Goddess Ah! Allison November 24, 2015, 5:16 am

    Ah! Thank you for the retelling of that gorgeous morning in Miami. I loved being there and releasing grief in the room with my sisters. So powerful to stand for my grief — bringing up feelings of loss for my dad, one of the biggest losses (because he was one of the biggest loves) in my life. I was immediately able to get on the floor and move my body in ways that are considered ridiculous, obscene, weird, wrong…all with women in complete acceptance of each other.

    I felt that I wanted to be held, felt the need to not grieve alone (and even in a room of 900 sister goddesses, if you are not plugged in, you can feel alone) and I courageously reached out to a sister there and asked to cry and grieve with her. She held me so close and so warmly, quite maternally and quite sisterly, with all the warm and round places that make us women. We then danced and gyrated and turned that shit on, making it erotic, making it celebratory, bringing that energy to a different form. That was my favorite session.

    The anniversary of my father’s death is in 3 weeks and as I am in this time period, I seek to use the tools and to release the grief, reflect the love, and do so with sisters and brothers who can also use grief as a sacred rapture within the rupture. Love it. Thank you Mama Gena,

    SG Ah! Allison

  • Estela November 24, 2015, 1:34 am

    I am sorry I was not with you in Miami, I was not with my daughter in Paris,
    I was not with my friends in Israel, I was in shul in Montreal.

    The question arised during the services, are we supposed to be joyful when
    others suffer? The rabbi from England answered that in times of darkness
    we should be the light that dispel darkness. Each one their own way, basically
    deeds of loving-kindness to humanity and to the animal-plant world.

    Most of the people in my generation heard the magic words: PEACE & LOVE! Now I invite all SG to spread peace & love even more. Regena and many others are already healing many people. Each one of us can turn our face to the other and send love.

    Thanks to all!

  • SG Madelyn Junkyard Angel November 24, 2015, 1:20 am

    Thank you for the idea of an empty chair to symbolize the absence of those lost.
    Zichronot – Remembrance – is imperative. . And our Sages teach us that “Tears are the Mikveh – the cleansing Bath – of the Soul”.
    Also, that our Tears make possible the Journey of the lost Soul back to its Source.
    God/ Goddess weeps with us for the evil that exists in the hearts of some men and their infected Sisters.
    At the same time, there is an ancient Sage, Rebbe Abba Aricha, who declared,
    “We will be held accountable in the World To Come for every joy we refuse in the world Today”.
    We are to “Choose Life that Ye May Live”.
    I’m no evangelical, and forgive me for preaching, but Mama G, your life affirmative Rapture after Rupture, your wonderful Dance Breaks are squarely within an ancient tradition that embraces your approach.
    Thank you for spreading the word, dear modern Prophetess.
    I am grateful you exist.

  • BSGC Monick November 24, 2015, 1:00 am

    It was sublime to be in that room throwing myself on the ground grieving in the arms of my sisters. At first the grief, the sobbing, the intense emotion threatened to overwhelm and swallow me whole. As I moved in, through, and with it something incredible happened. The sobs started to quiet and finally still. I went from overwhelming grief to stillness and then to pleasure. I started to feel good in my body and that was such a surprise and a gift. Every nanosecond of that weekend was a gift. Thank you Mama for continuing to share your genius and helping us find permission to feel.

  • elizabeth November 24, 2015, 12:00 am

    Dear Regena,
    I’m so glad you wrote this. When I heard the news about Paris I thought of you, the Creation Course, the Courtesans. I also understood and felt your teachings on a whole new level. My insight and feeling is that Paris is a woman, Paris is the very essence of everything you teach and to have this absolute embodiment of woman, celebration and beauty attacked and to send a message to the world that to be all that wonderfulness is unsafe (again) well… NO. It has made me stand for and embody the divine feminine more than ever. Love, blessings and huge gratitude to you and the Sister Godesss Community

  • SG Libby November 23, 2015, 11:43 pm

    Dear Regena,
    Thank you for this. I was in Miami, and for the first time, really, I was able to be fully present in the darkness, swampiness of our time together. I’m a Mastery 2015 grad, and I think I have had so much grief/loss built up over the years, that it wasn’t until THIS Miami that I could feel something other than paralysis (and yes, ridiculousness). Wow. I’m grateful for this community where all of my feelings are not only accepted but encouraged. I know this next Mastery experience will be even more outofthisworld powerful for me.

  • Lori Goldberg November 23, 2015, 11:31 pm

    I would love to send photos of my recent paintings that expresses my thoughts better than my words can. One I am thinking of is ‘Between the Trees we Find Ourselves’

  • Kim November 23, 2015, 10:21 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you.
    My students and I were remarking recently that so many of us are walking around in grief and hiding it, unlike cultures in which the women in mourning wail and wear black. Maybe it’s time to embrace that practice and wear our grief out loud.

  • Wild November 23, 2015, 10:21 pm

    Yes, an empty seat will sit proudly at my family’s Thanksgiving table.
    During this year’s huge grieving, my family has heard, absorbed, discussed, released, promised to be their all and joined together in honor of the countless lives lost, worldwide.
    Thank you for this message of giving and receiving, releasing and freeing, beautiful Mama Gena.
    Smooches xxx

  • East Coast Christy November 23, 2015, 10:08 pm

    I can use this Thanksgiving holiday to express my TRUE self. When sitting around the holiday table instead of pretending and “stuffing feelings” with mounds of…well…literally…”stuffing” in order to make others comfortable and at ease I will instead be REAL. Show the REAL me…regardless of whatever I’m feeling in the moment! Let’s the chips fall as they may…THIS IS ME!

  • Kathleen November 23, 2015, 10:01 pm

    Holy Shit.

    THIS is why I am not afraid of terrorism.

    Although I was not present in Miami when this epic wailing took place, the rituals of grief and gratitude are in my Blood and Bones… thanks to my Tribe… THIS Tribe… my beautiful, global, multicultural, multi-religious, multi-sexual, Tribe… their grief is my grief, their joy is my joy. The impact of these rituals and the ones I have been very present for are a giant silver Web of humanity and powerful, Powerful Love.

    This is Exactly what Regena means when she says women are the greatest untapped natural resource on the planet.

    Perfect Love Drives Out Fear. Period.

  • Shery November 23, 2015, 9:59 pm

    I love Mama Gena. I love what Mama Gena teaches. I applaud you and all your efforts for everything you have done to help women across the world, unite and join forces as well as improve millions of lives a million fold over. You have changed mine. However, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, stop pushing me to take your courses. If and when it is right for me, I will do so. Many sister goddesses come off as a cult and I know that is not your intention.

    • Scarlet Sparkle November 24, 2015, 10:27 pm

      One of the many things I appreciate about mama Gena’s work is that she is NOT pushy about taking her courses. It’s an INVITATION for those interested. If you have fear of cults then you are likely to see that wherever you look.

  • Jane November 23, 2015, 9:53 pm

    As one of those 900+ women there, feeling that experience was so much larger than words can describe! Reconciling the grief and the gratitude has been a moment to moment process – but one that I am grateful to be AWAKE to experience it!

  • jenny November 23, 2015, 9:22 pm

    Thank you Regena fire truly being the inspiration off my decade. I PRAISE you in always

  • jenny November 23, 2015, 9:20 pm

    For my birthday I led a grief ritual for 5 women. We built alters, danced, laid on sheep skins one at a time and were held as we reached howled, wailed and wept. It was a celebration of our love and longing. When we finished we danced again, told raunchy jokes and ate. This IS PRAISE, yrs, to grieve!
    For Thanksgiving I will hike up into the Columbia Gorge, to the highest point, and fast from Sun up till Sun down, giving Thanks by honoring others who don’t get to live on this safe abundant soil, and be fed by they’re spirit and fed them with mine