I’m Opening a Temple for the Grief Song. {poetry}


I’m wondering why every conversation we have isn’t about climate change and the mass extinction event we are in. I’m resisting the urge to hate myself and humanity as a result.

It is odd though, isn’t it?

Odd that dollar stores still exist. Odd that we buy bobble-headed celebrities to stuff into stockings, and then toss them in the garbage mid-January. It’s odd that we are all aware of and witnessing climate change while we shop on Amazon for light-up Christmas sweaters and consider the virtues of a Roomba. (I sent my son a sweater today — I hope he likes it.)

It is odd, isn’t it?

It’s odd that we’re not talking about it. I mean, you and me. You and me at the checkout counter. You and me at the water cooler. You and me on the street.

We say Christmas is about giving. But who is really making the sacrifice? We are taking from Earth’s limited resources to give each other crap we don’t need while threatening our very survival. It’s batshit crazy. But even as I type this sentence and take my stand as a grieving consumer, I wonder if my friends and family will be offended or think I’m being a downer.

I worry my feelings might make someone uncomfortable.

If I feel like this, will I still be welcomed at Christmas dinner? (And can I still have a Roomba?)

I don’t believe I am a downer, but I am down. I am grief-struck that our society cares more about small talk and empty consumerism than we do about providing a living planet for the next generation. I’ve heard it said that indigenous cultures in North America thought seven generations ahead, and here I am, at 50, wondering what the world will look like for my kids should they reach this age. Seriously.

Speaking of downers, imagine that instead of showing up for turkey dinner already prepared, you first had to go into the heart of the factory farm and pick out your bird. With your full presence, you would have to see the cages, the torture, and the disease behind your Christmas meal. How would that feel? Would you still eat it?

We as a culture have disconnected ourselves from bad feelings, and have socialized each other into a state of denial, numbness and hidden despair. This is the consciousness that arises from the patriarchal, survivalist game we are playing. This is the source of our cognitive dissonance and the collective trance we are disengaged in.

We’ve been tamping down our feelings for centuries, and it is killing us.

We aren’t evil, but the energy we use in keeping up the appearance that we are all fine is dangerous and destructive. It allows cruelty and profound over-consumption to be normalized. This desensitization and mental distortion dams up our creativity, and leaves it to fester in the toxic build-up of a culture that rejects tough emotions by saying they’re weak. The culture is wrong.

So, while the Earth burns, we post happy selfies, because happiness is a sign of success. And success is everything.

But if we feel nothing, we feel nothing for each other.

The planet is just a piece of dirt.
Women are just bodies.
Animals are just meat.

Life is unsustainable if it’s not inhabited by our feelings.

Forget tickets to Disneyland, emotional restoration is what our children really need this season.


Where does grief go when it doesn’t belong?
When you wake up to the news that 60, or 600 or 6000 are dead, where does the sorrow hibernate?
I’ve read — maybe you have too — that we could all be dead by 2050.
We could all be dead by 2050. My children. Your children. Our children’s children. Even the puppy across the road.

Where does the grief go?
Without grief, where is the hope?
Without grief, where is the growth?
No new growth.
No hope for regrowth.

I’m opening a temple for the grief song.
For the long wail
For the staggered breath
The howl of the broken-hearted
The shaking, cold, long drop deep into death.

We mourners will light a fire and gather around chairs
until tears turn to laughter
and laughter to hope
and hope into songs
and songs into seeds
and seeds into trees
and we will sing and laugh and cry until
Grief is back where she belongs.


Sandy Ibrahim is a Canadian of Egyptian and German descent. She does not know if her grandmothers are cheering her on or rolling over in their graves. After leaving her childhood home at 17, she has been pursuing sovereignty while maintaining a state of reverent bewilderment. She’s spent the last two decades raising two sons, and has worked as a systems analyst, a boxing coach, and a book-marketer. You can currently find her practicing Yoga, freaking out, writing, and volunteering for TreeSisters. You could contact her via her website.


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