“Grief does not change you. It reveals you.” – John Green
I grew up in a conservative household, and one of the only events we got to attend was… funerals.
And actually, my experience at these family funerals is what led me (all these years later!) to do this SoulBlazing work.
Early on, I witnessed the MATHENA: a women who provokes emotion following the loss of a loved one. And now, as a coach who helps provoke action with the work of the Imposters, I channel my inner-Mathena often!
Here’s what I say about it in my book SoulBlazing: Transform Your Imposters into Superpowers and Live a More Purposeful, Authentic Life. (You’ll find the complete passage in the Introduction on pages 5-6.)
“Certain aspects of my father’s culture actually opened my eyes rather than closed them. I vividly recall going to Chaldean Iraqi funerals, where women called Mathenas were hired to help people grieve the loss of loved ones. (This is common in many cultures throughout the world, notably in Japan.) In my childhood memory, the Mathena was a sort of badass grieving coach who’d call out people in harsh ways to provoke their grief.
She might wail to a mother: “You could have sacrificed more for your son. Now that he’s gone, you’re crying? You could have done more.”
Or she’d lament to another relative of the deceased: “Your close friend died. He was family. You could have helped him more. When he needed a loan for his business, you didn’t give it to him. Now he’s gone, and his depression probably killed him.”
After the loss of a parent, she’d rail at the kids: “You mourn your mother now, but where were you when they were in the hospital for several months? You were too frustrated with your mother’s demands, so you stopped coming by to help her. You were not a good child.”
I was always astonished watching this. It seemed like theater, but the Mathena’s goal was to deepen the truth of a situation and provoke people to open up and release their pain—even if what-ever she said wasn’t entirely true.
Years later I checked my memory with my relatives, who told me that the Mathena wasn’t nearly as harsh as I recalled. But provocation was part of the process. She’d push them to feel vulnerable, sad, even angry. The goal was to help them grieve, forgive (themselves and others), and ultimately release unresolved emotions so they could get on with life and grow. It was about stripping away the masks. In many ways that part of my childhood became the genesis of SoulBlazing.”
Read the rest of this story inside my new book SoulBlazing: Transform Your Imposters into Superpowers and Live a More Purposeful, Authentic Life. Available in print-form or as an audiobook with Audible.