Editor’s Note: In a world where random violence seems to be a constant threat, it can feel like we’re on our own, unprotected and unsupported. As part of our occasional series “What’s Your Story,” Sheila Jumping Bull of Oakland describes how she found strength and solace from a spiritual ceremony called “Wiping of the Tears.”

By Sheila Jumping Bull

Shiela Jumping-Bull records her commentary in a KQED studio as part of the "What's Your Story?" series.
Shiela Jumping-Bull records her commentary in a KQED studio as part of the “What’s Your Story?” series. (Shuka Kalantari/KQED)

Two years ago I was shot in my leg while waiting for the bus. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After being shot, I was told that I would never walk again, or that if I did, I’d have to walk with a cane. Being that I had to stay in bed for three months straight, not being able to walk or hold my own baby or do anything for myself, I became depressed. I didn’t want anything to do with life. Mentally, I was not here. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I was angry, confused and hurt.

We have a medicine man that comes to our Native community, once a month. He does ceremonies, sweat lodges, talking circles. He did a ceremony called Wiping of the Tears. I didn’t want to participate in this ceremony, but a lot of people from the Native American community told me that I should because it would help me.

A Wiping of the Tears ceremony is where you call upon your ancestors and those who have passed before you to come and help heal you — and take away your pain. As the medicine man sings these songs, these sacred songs, these ceremonial songs, you pray, and you ask for their guidance, their strength, their love, and their help.

It helped me in my mental state because I was going through a really hard time, and I felt lost. As I prayed and as these songs were being sung, I could feel my spirit coming back, I could feel my mentality coming back, I could feel myself being Sheila again — and not some victim.

When I think about it, the Wiping of the Tears ceremony really brought me back to reality. It helped me to start building my life over again and to build my courage and strength up to start trying to help others. I feel like I am me again.

I feel determined to let the Native American Community know more about mental health, and that it’s okay to be diagnosed with a mental health issue or to be on medication. It does not mean you are crazy.

Thanks to the ceremony — and the strength I got from the ancestors — I am ready to get my life back and get back to my life.

Listen to Jumping Bull’s Story:

Native American Woman Finds Strength in Spiritual Ceremony 11 February,2014State of Health

  • Ah-Neen. A great sharing story. Thanks so much. It is so great to hear how the scare ceremonies of our American Indian religious leaders and communities are so honest, clear and directly connect us to the truth of our lives. Healing is always connected to our power to open our hearts, to take responsibility for our pain and be open to receiving good news, to never fear happiness. Blessings to you for your healing and thank you for sharing this story.

  • JLTenderfoot

    That Sheila so eloquently blessed us with her story – whether we are Native American or not, provided us with our own spiritual healing. Thank you, Sheila. May you continue your literary endeavors!

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