On January 26, 2014, I was in an airport waiting for my flight home. Delayed five hours due to inclement weather, I was a thousand miles away when I received devastating news that a local high school girl died that morning while on her way to school. Her car hit ice on the city street causing her to slide into a telephone pole. The car burst into flames and she died at the scene.
Stranded a thousand miles away, I couldn't be there to hold this mother in her darkest hour and felt utterly helpless. I knew her unspeakable pain and the journey that laid ahead, but I could do nothing in that moment. So I took out my pen and paper and wrote her a letter welcoming her to The Wailing Tent.
Meant to bring comfort by helping her know she wasn't alone, The Wailing Tent took on a life of its own, and now welcomes mothers around the world to a sacred place where her wails are understood, honored and accepted.
Please share The Wailing Tent wherever you wish as long as you give credit due. Thank you.
Lynda Cheldelin Fell
THE WAILING TENT
Originally published 01/26/14 | By Lynda Cheldelin Fell
The Wailing Tent
THE WAILING TENT
Published in Huffington Post 06/03/17
Dear grieving mother,
It is with profound condolences that I welcome you to the sisterhood of The Wailing Tent. I know this greeting will soon be forgotten, for your heart and soul have sustained an unfathomable blow. The fog of shock will accompany you wherever you go, severely impacting your memory for a long time, so I offer this written welcome letter to refer to when your recollection falters.
The Wailing Tent is an honored place where only mothers with a broken spirit can enter. Admittance is gained not with an ID card bearing your name, but with the profound sorrow freshly etched on your heart. Membership is free, for you have already paid the unfathomable price.
The directions to The Wailing Tent are secret, available only to mothers who speak our language of everlasting grief. No rules are posted, no hours are noted. There is no hierarchy, no governing body. Your membership has no expiration date, for it is lifelong. The refuge offered within its walls does not judge members based on age, religious belief, or social status. You can hang your mask outside and if you can’t make it past the door, we will surround you with love, comfort and understanding right where you lay.
The Wailing Tent is a shelter where mothers shed anguished tears among her newfound sisters. It is a haven where all forms of wailing are honored, understood, and accepted. In the beginning you will be terribly afraid, and will hate The Wailing Tent and everything it stands for. You will flail, thrash about, and spew vile words in protest. You will fight to be free of the walls, pleading desperately for a different tent that doesn’t speak our language. These emotions will last for some time.
Your family and friends cannot accompany you here. The needs of The Wailing Tent are invisible to them and though they will try, they simply cannot comprehend the language nor fathom the disembodied, guttural howls heard within.
In the beginning, your stays here will seem endless. Over time, the need for your visits will change and eventually you will observe some mothers talking, and even smiling rather than wailing. Those are mothers who have learned to balance profound anguish with moments of peace, though they still need to seek refuge among us from time to time. Do not judge those mothers as callused or strong, for they have endured profound heartache to attain their peace. Their visits here are greatly valued, for their hard-earned wisdom offers hope that one day we too will learn to balance the sadness in our hearts.
Lastly, you need not flash your ID card or introduce yourself each time you visit, for we know who you are. You are one of us, an honorary lifelong sister of The Wailing Tent.
Welcome, my wailing sister.