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The Healing Power of Psilocybin in Transforming Grief

This is a dialogue about grief, a process so predominant, yet so often experienced alone and in silence. This process is a conversation we rarely have, existing on the outskirts of our awareness. In a world veiled by a collective sense of grief, where the very air seems to carry the weight of unspoken sorrows, we all seek a way to navigate the delicate nuances of our universal pain. 

This week I’ve turned 32. By the time I was 30, I had already dealt with several losses from people who were foundational in giving me the life I have today. The death of my father happened very suddenly when I was 9, as a consequence of HIV and the little information and support that was in the 2000s for people who faced what was by then a deadly virus. My mother, not so much present in our lives due to addiction and her lifestyle, had her life taken away when I was 19. My three grandparents raised me and my sister from a young age and each left this world on what also felt like very sudden departures. With all of that, the message I got from life was to be strong and keep going, as all I have can change or fade away from one day to the next.

I’ve learned by now that grief is not a linear process but a messy entanglement with the complexities of our existence. Transforming grief involves delving into discomfort, navigating emotions, and finding meaning amidst chaos. Like a sculptor working with clay, grief shapes and moulds us into beings with an expanded capacity for compassion, resilience, and understanding.

Earlier this summer, I made the conscious choice to sit with my grief in a ceremony. This choice meant peeling away the protective layers that have acted as a shield, preventing me from fully embracing the pain of the loss of my family. Stepping more often into this vulnerability is something I have been trying to cultivate over the past years, to immerse myself in the rawness of emotions that I had, for too long, kept at bay.

Having psilocybin as my gentle companion on this journey felt very natural, as this beautiful earth medicine has already been such a guide in my life’s journey in transmuting pain into love. It was with this trust in my capacity to feel and in my companion that I once again dived into the deepest parts of myself; the parts that I rarely talk about, or even visit.

In sharing this journey with you, I extend an invitation. 

An invitation to engage in the uncomfortable conversation about grief, to hold space for each other, and to sit with the complexities of our shared humanity so that we can better embrace the transformative power that resides amid our collective sorrow. 

drawing of a woman holding flowers
Artwork: Samantha Mash

The Doorway 

Despite having journeyed many times through the internal landscapes of my being, I had felt a lot of resistance going into certain parts. It wasn’t a fear of the unknown; rather it was because I knew exactly what lay in those corners. 

For a long time, I was terrified of allowing myself to feel the depths of my emotions and all the messiness that was contained within. For a long time, I did not fully welcome all the visitors to the House of my Self. 

The House of my Self

When I drank the psilocybin tea, I quickly found myself being confronted by the resistance I had. The first guest that came to visit was Anger—tempestuously barging in with unapologetic intensity. It wielded the power of unmet expectations and perceived injustices, challenging the serenity of the space. 

Anger was loud, a visitor I seldom allowed in the House of my Self. Though disruptive, it carried a fiery energy that demanded expression: “Pay attention to me, I have something to say!” it screamed, making a mess as my next guest was quickly coming in.

As Pain entered the room, it spoke in the language of aching hearts and tear-stained memories, forcing me to confront the fragility of my own emotions. My stomach turned, and tears started to flow from my eyes like a never-ending stream. In its overwhelming presence, as each tear dried, Pain demanded acknowledgment, inviting me to feel it all. The void/ The absence. The emptiness that follows after the people we love depart this plane of life.

Pain stayed, weighing down the house. And just when I thought I could not feel any heavier, Fear snuck in through the window. 

Fear, a well-acquainted guest, always followed me around the house to remind me how afraid I was of being left alone. “But you are alone,” I could hear its echoes through the walls as I was brought back to my childhood house, now empty and desolate. 

At this moment, when it started to feel like it was all too much for me to bear, I opened my eyes to center myself in the ceremony room. Very gently, a soothing presence and helping hand came to me. More than that, he came to bear witness to my unfolding process, and it was exactly what I needed to allow my next guest to come in.

Next to arrive on the doorstep of the House of my Self was Fear's close companion, Sadness. With a quiet demeanor, Sadness tiptoed into the room, leaving a trail of heavy air in its wake. Sadness had in the past moved into the House, in the form of a depression that quagmired me for several years. But this time, Sadness didn't demand immediate attention; instead, it settled in the corners, gently nudging me to acknowledge its presence. 

And it was only when I welcomed Sadness that I could see Grief, a solemn visitor draped in shadows. Grief had a way of lingering, weaving itself into the very fabric of my House. It whispered stories of loss and change, urging me to confront the inevitability of goodbyes and the ache that accompanies them. It reminded me of everything that once was and everything that could never be.

As these visitors filled my room and sat around the dinner table, my physical experience was of pain, despair, and sorrow. This was the most challenging psilocybin journey I ever had. For most of it, I lay down on my mat crying what felt like a never-ending river of tears. Tears that were stuck for many years inside of me. But as these tears fell, they slowly taught me how to welcome all those guests, so I could finally see that they had also come bearing gifts. 

The Dinner Table

Psilocybin’s magic has this incredible ability to carry you through the darkest depths of the ocean and bring you back to the surface, helping you transform whatever was there that felt bad or heavy into a source of light and strength.

Anger gave me a profound understanding of my underlying concerns and unmet needs, whispering profound truths often obscured by its fiery facade. Anger was, after all, a protector. It showed me the transformative power of pausing amidst its swell, fostering a space where emotions could be felt and understood before responding.

Pain taught me the intricate interplay between vulnerability and grit, painting a portrait of my own human capacity to endure and emerge with newfound wisdom and resilience. My fear of being alone transformed into the recognition of interconnectedness. I was held through my entire journey, by the truffles, the facilitators, the group, the container, myself, the Earth, and all the people in my life who show up for me every day. The truth was, I am never alone.

Grief transformed into "the echo of love" as psilocybin showed me its newfound resonance. The echo of love taught me how to see loss not as an absence, but as a presence, a force that reshapes the contours of my connections with family, self, and the world.

Observing all these visitors in their entirety, the House of my Self lit up, reminiscent of my childhood home on Christmas day. A warm and full place where my family would dance to the same playlist each year and share meals around the table. 

The Garden

In the silent embrace of grief, I discovered a sacred space within. Each previously unwelcome visitor revealed parts of myself that I had for so long hidden. Amidst the chaos and discomfort of anger, pain, fear, sadness, and grief, I found the fragments of my humanity waiting to be acknowledged and transformed.

Within the House of my Self, I unearthed the alchemy of healing, turning wounds of loss into fertile grounds for resilience, empathy, and understanding. Each emotion, once an intruder, became a guide, revealing profound lessons beyond my individual suffering.

This experience unfolded on a retreat container, that was a safe and brave space, reminding me that when we do things with love, that love expands and multiplies, healing wounds and repairing broken hearts. Psilocybin, my gentle companion on this journey, unlocked sealed doors and illuminated the path to profound self-discovery. Its transformative power amplified how everything in life is linked, transcending what was for me singular narratives of grief. 

Nowadays, my engagement with grief is a continuous unfolding, more of a tender yet intentional embrace. Instead of pushing it away, I now sit with grief, acknowledging its presence as an intrinsic part of my existence. I am learning to allow myself the permission to feel deeply, to honor the memories of those I've lost, and to hold space for the emotions that emerge. By engaging with grief in this way, I move it and I let it move me. Allowing me to find a sense of liberation I did not know before, changing something within me.

Bayo Akomolafe, a philosopher and activist I deeply admire, presents a profound and unconventional outlook on the human experience. His work invites us to redefine grief beyond an individual's response to loss. For Akomolafe, grief becomes a communal dance—an expression of how we are all connected through the same thread.

Just as Akomolafe encourages us to reconsider grief as a communal dance, I also extend the call to honor our grief as a shared human experience, to hold space for each other while we welcome a multitude of emotions into our Houses. By nurturing seeds of healing within, we can cultivate a garden to accompany our Houses. This garden will then flourish through the remembrance of unity amid our diverse experiences.

So that one day, the process of our grief will no longer be one of pain and separation, but of resilience, empathy, and interconnectedness.


Words from the Author

Before concluding this dialogue on grief and transformation, I feel compelled to extend my deepest gratitude to the remarkable team at Kiyumí Retreats. Their dedication to fostering healing and growth through their integrative, psychedelic-assisted approach has left an indelible mark on my journey.

To their team: Your commitment to bridging the worlds of science-based, trauma-informed modalities and ancient plant medicine traditions is truly remarkable. The safe and nurturing environment you cultivated during the retreat and the Compassionate Inquiry Program was deeply significant in the unfolding of my process. A heartfelt thank you.

In extending this note of gratitude, I invite you, dear readers, to explore further the transformative offerings of Kiyumí. You can visit their website here. To learn more about Psychedelics & Compassionate Inquiry, check this link.

photo of the author

About the Author

Originally from Brazil, Jessika Lagarde is a trauma-informed plant medicine facilitator, Earth keeper, educator, and Women On Psychedelics co-founder. Jessika’s environmental work and psychedelic path have made her more aware not only of the crisis of our planet but also of how disconnection is a direct cause of it. All of her work is informed by taking action in a way that serves the Earth and our human collective, in hopes of mobilizing inner healing towards outer action. Learn more about her through her website or Linkedin.


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