In 2012, Victoria Markham's three and 1/2 year old son, Koa Markham, died suddenly in an accident. Shattered and bereaved, she stepped vulnerably into her grief walk in order to recover her will to live. What she encountered as a bereaved mother was further traumatizing: a deep aversion to grief in our culture and a lack of emotional intelligence to journey with her into the dark world of sorrow.
Gasping for air and a regenerative way forward, Victoria sought out and worked with professionals who are working to bring back soulful grief ways: Francis Weller (psychotherapist and author of The Wild Edges of Sorrow), Dr. Joanne Cacciatore (author of Bearing the Unbearable and founder of the Selah Carefarm), and Dr. Ted Waird (founder of Golden Willow Retreat). With a deep background in nature-based rites of passage and indigenous spirituality, Victoria’s journey also took her into rituals and ceremony with the native cultures of Hawaii, Mexico, and the Navajo of the American Southwest, in search for more vital ways of being with death and moving through life-altering grief.
Six years later and surfacing from the underworld of her life rearranged, Victoria is on a mission to un-silence grief. Motivated by the challenges of her personal experience, she is determined to help us remember and create healthy ways of dancing with grief in ourselves and with each other, ways that take us beyond merely surviving to discovering post-traumatic growth, ways that allow grief to "ripen us into mature human beings" as Francis Weller states in the film.
Over the course of a year the film follows Victoria’s purpose-driven journey of becoming a “grief guide” for others. The film opens with scenes of Victoria facilitating a small retreat for 4 other bereaved mothers in her hometown of Ashland, Oregon. Following the call to bring grievers together — to not grieve alone — she engages the women in a weekend of ritual and ceremony, as the technologies to assist us in moving with the wild nature of grief. Moved to make vital resources visible and to create a new story around death and grief for future grievers, Victoria also returns to interview the “grief activists” she worked with (in the first year after her son’s death) to discuss their perspective on the deep art of grieving. These rich conversations are woven throughout the film.
Further moved to step out and bring grievers of all stripes together (not just bereaved mothers) and to shepherd grief work into communal settings, Victoria decides to offer a bigger grief ritual to 14 people from her community, culling from the depth her diverse background and experience. Despite struggles with her own vulnerability and challenges in her 18 year marriage, we follow Victoria on her unwavering mission to contribute her part in creating a new culture that allows us to discover a healthier, more vital relationship with death and grief.