Sheffield woodlands group ritual helps men connect with loss

A community grief ritual held in Sheffield’s woodlands have helped men to connect with mindfulness, nature and their own personal grief.

Two sold out sessions, called Grief and Gain, were held by Angga Kara, founder of the Men up North charity, and Chris Moore, a founder member of the Manchester Men’s Circle and the Sheffield Men’s Group.

Chris said that the men who attended “realised that their grief when shared was a gift for the community and for other men there”.

He added: “One of the big takeaways for me was the reframing of grief.”

The three-hour sessions had men coming from not only Sheffield but other parts of the UK, including Manchester, Nottingham, and Leeds to take part in the community ritual.

Men’s mental health within the expression of grief has always been a stigmatised topic in society, however Chris and Angga said he feel that this issue is being taken more seriously.

In 2017, Angga says he was scared of running a men’s group.

He said: “I was scared of what men would think, what women would think.”

He said that with this space of authenticity and openness, he can feel the stigma lowering.

The ritualistic activities took place in a woodland area, as a secluded setting allowed the men to escape from the normality of life and fully embrace the event.

Chris said: “We wanted to be outside, we wanted to create a journey.”

He described the use of the movement, experience and mystery of the group reaching their destination, but not knowing where that would be.

He said: “in that space we would create a circle, we made fire, we allowed men to engage with the nature around them.”

He talks of bringing in the elements such as water, fire and air, and looking men in the eye who they may have never met before.

Angga said that whilst the men talked in pairs, a question that stuck out to him was asking: “what is raw in your heart right now?”

These kinds of rituals are hugely important for grieving people.

Chris believes that: “in our culture there’s no real safe room for grief,” but that “a ritual space builds a safe container.”

Angga added: “I’m always asking myself what I am allowed to do and what am I not allowed to do in this space.”

The event was funded by Sheffield City Council, and city movement Compassionate Sheffield.

Nick Deayton, the programme manager of Compassionate Sheffield, said: “If we are more compassionate to one another we’ll have a happy and healthy city.”

He said he felt strongly that Grief and Gain allowed men the space to talk about how they feel.

He added: “They created a safe and compassionate space for people to talk about loss.

“We distance ourselves from the topic because we don’t find it easy or comfortable.”

Compassionate Sheffield is about focusing on individuals and small actions that make a difference, rather than centralising issues. They gave out 53 community grants to fund and support charities like Grief and Gain.

Nick said he believes that death can become centralised, but really it is about the individual.

He said: “Everybody has a relationship with death, your own mortality or the death of somebody close to you.”

For more information about Men up North and their other events, go to MEN Up North – Ey Up!

Written by Grace Cunningham

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