The Hidden Alchemy of Grief by Hillary Rain via


All of the best lives, I think, have a little sorrow in them.

Grief has a way of sculpting you. Of clawing your insides, tearing you to shreds, hollowing you out. It transforms you—thins you, bares you down, grinds, pounds, and pulverizes; makes you both transparent and obscure, reshapes every holographic cell of you. Your eyes become shadowed and your bones themselves weep, even if you grieve without the comforting relief of tears.

In her novel The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich writes,

“Whenever you leave cleared land, or a path, or a road, when you step from someplace carved out, plowed, or traced by a human and pass into the woods, you must leave something of yourself behind. It is that sudden loss, I think, even more than the difficulty of walking through undergrowth that keeps people firmly fixed to paths. In the woods, there is no right way to go, of course, no trail to follow but the law of growth. You must leave behind the notion that things are right. Just look around you. Here is the way things are. Twisted, fallen, split at the root. What grows best does so at the expense of what's beneath.”

What grows best, she says. No trail to follow but the law of growth. That is LIFE. Twisted, fallen, split at the root, but alive. Sometimes loss presses us into it. The thinning work of grief slips us under whatever barrier we've built to hold the pain of life at bay, and we are thrust into the heart of it.

Like being reborn.

What do you desire?

I have a feeling Erdrich would understand these words by Alberto Villodo:

“When the first chakra is disconnected from the feminine Earth, we can feel orphaned and motherless. The masculine principle predominates, and we look for security from material things. Individuality prevails over relationship, and selfish drives triumph over family, social and global responsibility. The more separated we become from the Earth, the more hostile we become to the feminine. We disown our passion, our creativity, and our sexuality. Eventually the Earth itself becomes a baneful place. I remember being told by a medicine woman in the Amazon, “Do you know why they are really cutting down the rain forest? Because it is wet and dark and tangled and feminine.”


This is the whole sacred and beautiful mess of life—dark and voluptuous, fires raging, her passion, hunger, grief, wanting, fear, creativity, freedom, and desire all begging to live with one terrifying demand:


“I formed a question of my own in my mind and without ceasing my direct stare I spoke to the wolf, asking my own question: “Wolf,” I said, “your people are hunted from the air and poisoned from the earth and killed on sight and you are outbred and stuffed in cages and almost wiped out. How is it that you go on living with such sorrow? How do you go on without turning around and destroying yourselves, as so many of us Anishinaabeg have done under similar circumstances?”
And the wolf answered, not in words, but with a continuation of that stare. “We live because we live.” He did not ask questions. He did not give reasons. And I understood him then. The wolves accept the life they are given. They do not look around them and wish for a different life, or shorten their lives resenting the humans, or even fear them any more than is appropriate, They are efficient. They deal with what they encounter and then go on. Minute by minute. One day to the next.” —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

If you want to live, do not fear the way grief pulses hard up against you, giant waves of it pounding against your chest until you can barely breathe. Sorrow knows what she must do the way your body knows how to heal. Grief stirs your primal waters. Deep calls to deep, and all the primordial waters of you become a raging torrent, unstoppable and unbearably strong.

You must rise brave. Rest brave. Breathe, walk, crawl, stumble, and quake with bravery. Wanting something so much it hurts will kill you, first, then make you come alive. It is your sorrow and your salvation. It is the way.

For the hidden alchemy of grief? It hollows you, then hallows you. Grief makes a womb out of emptiness. Sorrow clears you out like fire, to ravage and burn (w)hole.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

All life begins in the dark.
And all dark and hollow chambers hold a song.

Hillary Rain is a natural-light photographer, digital artist, and writer. As a spiritual mystic and mentor to women, she uses holistic creativity as a healing pathway for rebirth and the holy-hush fleshing out of soulskin. Her eCourse and workbook Body Stories is due to release in 2015. She is the Creative Director at and is blessed to be co-creator of Roots Alchemy, Soulsigh, + The Wild Mystics. You can read her writings about spirituality + sensuality on her own incense-and-light-soaked walls at