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Buddhadharma : Fall 2018
DOJIN SARAH EMERSON 101 A ritualized turning toward and processing of grief, done in a collec- tive way, is often hard to find. Because the Jizo ceremony is mostly silent, the specifics of peo- ple’s losses are not shared. But sometimes, from previous conversa- tions, I know who is sitting in the room: a couple whose child died in labor three weeks ago, the mother’s belly still soft and postpar- tum; a woman whose child died fifty years ago; a family who lost an adult child to suicide or accidental overdose; a couple wanting to honor an elected abortion; the family grieving a six-year-old who died from cancer. Some who attend are Buddhist practitioners, but others are not. Each loss is distinct, but I have seen this ceremony resonate and be a place of healing for people experiencing these losses and others as well. The Jizo ceremony provides, for all of them, an expression and an experience of communally witnessed grief. This ceremony is also a space for a nonverbal processing of grief, which is often undervalued and hard to come by. Many of our expe- riences while grieving are difficult to put into words, and even when we can, words are often reductive and belie the complexities and presence of all that is unspoken. Emotions in grief are wide ranging. Often there is sorrow, which is widely acknowledged and accommo- dated (as long as it doesn’t get too loud or go on for too long). But there are so many other emotions that can and do arise in mourning: confusion, rage, guilt, frustration, fear, and even joy, elation, relief, excitement, feelings of humor, feelings of love. It’s hard to reckon with the gamut of emotions that show up even in the privacy of our own hearts, let alone express them for others to possibly judge and misconstrue. Also, these feelings don’t just come around for a few months and then go away. For the major losses in our lives, this expansive emotional range of experience is with us, in a kind of ebb and flow, for the rest of our lives. This ceremony makes room for The archetypal qualities that Jizo embodies—fearlessness, protection, and fierce love—are the very same qualities we call forth in ourselves whenever we turn fully toward the complexity of our grief.