Beating the Drums, Saying their Names

New Hope Grief Support Community’s Rhythms of Grief gave me a sense of community and connection I didn’t know before.

In 2021, I lost my uncle and great grandpa within a month of moving to Long Beach as a new transfer student to Long Beach State. Being away from my immediate family, I was left utterly shocked, confused, and alone, with a seemingly long grieving process ahead of me. 

After attending New Hope Grief Support Community’s Rhythms of Grief event this past Saturday, I am reminded of the important role that community, love, connection, and the arts can play within the grieving process.  For this event, community members gathered at Grace Church to participate in healing activities incorporating the arts and the power of music. Participants left the event feeling connected to their community and with a sense of empowerment to continue on within their differing stages of the grieving process. 

“Community healing means that I am not alone in what I am going through,” New Hope Grief Support Community volunteer Andrew Villalpando said. “As a grief survivor myself, I understand how crucial it is to have people you are able to share your genuine feelings with and to have a space to acknowledge the memories we have with our loved ones.”

As participants, we were invited to make our own musical instruments, such as drums and shakers, using recycled plastic containers filled with various amounts of rocks for different rhythms, which we then decorated using a variety of provided markers, crayons, stickers, construction paper, and tape. 

While decorating our instruments, I spoke to community member Celeste, who expressed her reason for attending Rhythms of Grief: “I’m grieving the loss of my mom from four years ago; so, I’m hoping to gain new techniques on how to deal with that grief.” 

Volunteer Wendy Hamilton shared similar feelings of unprocessed grief.

“I lost three of my family members in a short time period without properly grieving them after their passing,” Wendy said. “So, I hope that this community session will help me go through that process that I have delayed.”

After finishing up decorating our unique instruments, we were invited to write the names and any spiritual gifts received by our grieved loved ones on a piece of paper to be read aloud in the drum circle. We gathered in the next room, which consisted of drum instruments arranged in a large circle, to prepare for the release of energy through the healing power of music. 

“Music is an international language, it is a unifying form of expression that people of all different languages and cultures are able to enjoy,” New Hope Grief volunteer Teri Hershberg said. 

UCLArts and healing drumming facilitator Gino Gamboa led the group to express grief through various drumming rhythms and sounds. Community members of all ages were in attendance, and we were encouraged to participate with our newly made instruments as well as utilizing the drums provided. As we were drumming, Gamboa would indicate pauses of silence in order for our loved ones’ names to be read aloud. The names were read a handful at a time, while we were encouraged to continue thinking about our loved ones and harnessing their energy. 

Many children in attendance were able to lead the group in different rhythm drumming styles, which was very engaging and entertaining for both the children and audience. 

“Rhythms of Grief is great for kids who may not be able to verbalize,” Hershberg further expressed. “Because having something that is tactile, is able to release frustration and further acts as a distraction.” 

The event concluded with a final large group drumming rhythm, followed by an announcement of complimentary acai bowls for all participants. 

Overall, I left Grace Church feeling connected to a community that I had not known prior. With open hearts, we gathered to grieve our loved ones in hopes of processing those feelings with fellow community members who faced similar feelings. Every participant left Rhythms of Grief with a stronger sense of community and newfound techniques on how to process grief using the healing power of arts and music. 

To learn more about monthly support groups, workshops, and healing events available for grief survivors, visit New Hope Grief Support Community or call 562-429-0075.  

By Sinai Miranda, CityHeART Art from Ashes Creative Intern

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