Pretty much everyone has had a loss in their life. It could be a family member, a friend who enriched our lives, or a beloved pet. With the loss comes grief, loneliness, and isolation. As I’m sure you have heard, everyone grieves in their own way. You really can’t criticize someone for grieving a certain way. It’s hard to maneuver through some losses and our path to recovery can be a twisted and winding road — the road that eventually leads to healing and moving forward.
Back in 2004 I lost my husband of 13 years to cancer. We had been dealing with his illness for 4 years. It was difficult, to say the least. With his passing I was lost and alone. You definitely get to know your true friends when you lose a husband. There are those who stick with you and those who quietly disappear from your life. For those who disappear, I chalk it up to them being afraid that if they hang around me “death” might rub off on them. I really needed to make some new friends that would help me on my healing journey. I needed something that would take me out of my head and get me into the groove again. Into life.
I can’t remember exactly, but I think I found the original ad in the personal section of my local newspaper. It was an advertisement for a community drum circle. Immediately my mind wandered back to the days when Randy and I would attend festivals in which there was always at least one drum circle, if not several. I never played the drum, but the beat and vibrations always drew me in. I was a magnet for the drum circles. These circles, often having 20-30 people with a variety of drums, was magical. One person would start with a simple rhythm and then others would play alternating beats. Soon everyone was in sync. Everyone was working together to create this magical, vibrating, healing energy. If you have never been to a drum circle, do it. When you feel the vibrations, you are immersed in healing. I only wish those vibrations had healed Randy enough to overcome his illness. If nothing else, we were happy at these festivals and the drum circles were an integral part of the experience.
My memories of the drum circles include the wonderful rhythms, of course. But I also see women in long skirts swaying as they dance in circles, kicking up dust. I see tanned and barefoot people connecting to the Earth. I see people smiling and happy to be alive. During these drum circles, I could dance for hours. Sometimes I would just tap my fingers or gently slap my thighs to the beat. Tapping a beat is something I have been doing ever since I can remember. I have always had a knack for rhythm. I think it would be interesting to do one of those DNA tests to see if my ancestral roots go back to a culture known for drumming. I would not be surprised if I did.
I knew I had some rhythm so I decided to go to the drum circle and give it a a try. Perhaps I would have fun and meet some like minded people. What did I have to lose? As I grieved, for me, it was best to keep busy. Idle time was not good for me. I always needed a diversion from the sadness in my head and heart.
I am about the most introverted person I know, so going by myself to a drum circle where I didn’t know a soul was not something that was easy for me. But I knew I would enjoy it. I knew the beat would draw me in. I knew it would take me back to the days Randy and I attended festivals and that would make me smile. He would be with me in spirit as I banged the drum. I am so glad I made the effort. That first drum circle led me to new friendships and a new hope on life.
As awkward as that first drum circle was, it started me on a path of healing I hadn’t expected. Playing the drum is very tribal, earthy, natural. Sounds can heal and the vibrations I felt while drumming were amazing. It helped me in a couple ways. First, it comforted me as I knew Randy was looking down and smiling at me. He knew how much I loved the drums and I think he would be happy I finally became a participant rather than an onlooker. Second, but it took me out of that dark, grieving space that I had been in. For a little while my mind was on other things. I began to realize that drumming was something I could do to heal from my grief. It truly did help.
Through drumming I met so many amazing people that, I believe, will be life long friends. These were all people who never met Randy. They didn’t associate me with “death” like some of people who knew him. This was a fresh batch of people with whom I had a lot in common. Drummers tend to be the down to Earth, granola types. That was me! Having this new batch of friends was very instrumental in helping me with my grief.
I eventually started taking African drumming lessons. I was hooked. The drum circles we had attended at festivals were great, very free form and unorganized. This was totally different. Now I had to play a specific beat and I had to complement those playing a different rhythm around me. I really fell in love with African drumming. I looked forward to the challenge of remembering past rhythms (not easy to do for me) and remembering the new rhythms I was learning. When you are playing an African drumming rhythm, you have to listen to others and really work together to make it sound good. It takes everyone playing the right rhythm to make it come together. This type of exercise really helps bond people in a way. The sense of accomplishment is amazing when you hear the beautiful rhythm and you know you helped create it. This helps with healing too. I really felt alive when I was drumming. This was much preferred over the dark place of sadness I had been living in. Yes, drumming truly helped me heal from the death of my husband. I found THIS VIDEO of my African drum teacher. Thank you, Sogbety! You have inspired people of all ages revel in the beat of the drum.
I share my experience so that readers might be interested in seeking out a drum circle in their community. CLICK HERE to help you find a drum circle near you. I moved back to my hometown a couple years ago after being away for decades. One of my priorities was to find a drum circle to attend. I found a circle and have enjoyed it very much. While my grief has subsided in the many years since Randy’s death, the drum circle still brings healing and energy to my life. It can do that for anyone.
This is part 1 of a series I plan to write about how I healed from grief. I hope it inspires others who are in the depths of depression. You can crawl out of that dark place and make the most of this life. Drumming is only one path to healing. Stay tuned.
Thank you to my dear friend, Kim, who was not only was the facilitator of the drum circle that led to my healing through drumming and who introduced me to African drumming, but who also inspired me to keep sharing personal stories on my blog. Thanks, Kim!