The Five Gates of Grief

The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and be stretched large by them. ~ Francis Weller

Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, is a stunning descent into the pain and beauty of grief. How we experience it currently in our modern, Western culture, how we could better experience it, and rituals of renewal.  

I am a fan of Francis Weller’s work for good reason. He is a true elder, a wise man with a deep well of compassion which he shares with the world. I have written a blog post about his work, which you can find here.  

One of the most potent chapters in The Wild Edge of Sorrow is “The Five Gates of Grief.” One of those five gates is familiar. The others most of us have never even named.  

The First Gate: Everything We Love, We Will Lose.

The chapter starts with a quote from Oscar Wilde. Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.

This is the most familiar, and the only gate many of us acknowledge. It is the gate we walk through when we have lost someone or something we love. Everything in life is a gift. Nothing lasts. Not our relationships, health, jobs, pets, or even our lives.  

Acknowledging and accepting this truth will bring much more joy and gratitude to one’s life. To suppress it leads our heart into living a flatline existence. The deeper the grief, the higher the joy.  

Francis Weller shares a 12th Century poem about this gate, which you can read and listen to here

When we allow ourselves to grieve, we tell ourselves and the world that we have loved. 

And this is a holy thing indeed.  

We live in a culture that denies grief, grieves only in privacy, and tells ourselves to “get over it.” We’ve grieved enough. Time to move on. In reality, we should allow ourselves to drop deep into this fertile darkness where love is in pain.  In this place of stillness, we are given time for our hearts to heal and learn, and to open again. Only then can we better experience even more of this incredible world of impermanence.  

I intend not to give away too much of the book. My hope is that sharing a bit about the different gates of grief will whet one’s appetite to read the book.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share the gates that we deny or don’t even know exist. 

In the next post, I will introduce the second gate, “The Places That Have Not Known Love.”  

Night Work

Yesterday, I lost a beloved pet to cancer. Today, I walk in the dark world of grief. It is becoming a well-worn path. Yet, I know that it is necessary to be fully engaged with my feelings and to let them come to the surface in order for them to shift into something that will help me in this world. And something that will lead me back to a deeper love for another.

I know I am not alone in feeling grief in these times. So, I want to share with you a short excerpt from the book by Francis Weller, “The Wild Edge of Sorrow.” He is an elder of our times who understands and teaches about the sacredness of grief.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

Click below for the video.

Excerpt from The Wild Edge of Sorrow