top of page

The Grieving Walk: A Public Ritual &
Performance (2021)

In the beginning of 2021, I lost my grandmother to cancer but found myself questioning what the grieving process looked like during a global pandemic. I suddenly found myself confronted with how social supports and public rituals were replaced with social distancing and zoom funerals. Being confused and in pain, I found myself walking everyday because the grief felt like fear in my body and the only way to get rid of it was to walk. 

I was advised by Harrell Fletcher to invite others to walk with me, and how to make this work publicly. I evaluated what I wanted to explore in a walking socially engaged project for myself and others and landed on: consistency, simplicity, and vulnerability. 

I started to think of how the process of grief could leave an impression on the environment and allow for the public space to hold the grief. Since I have a strong studio practice of drawing, I was interested to think of a continuous line drawn by chalk be left behind while walking with a t-shirt that stated I was "grieving". I wanted to see how the public could interact with a public grief ritual and if they would dedicate a moment of their time to their own grief after a global pandemic. My expectation for this project is to continue to walk as long as I am grieving, which possibly continue for as long as I live. The project asks others to enter into the space to stand in solidarity with those who are grieving or to be vulnerable with their own loss and grief and make up for the time in isolation.

Every Monday from 3 pm - 4 pm starting on April 19th, 2021, I carry a sign with the title of the project with time and post it in front of FMH (Fariborz Maseeh Hall) on Portland State University's Campus to initiate the public ritual has begun. A walking stick with a piece of chalk is left behind as an entry point for participation and I walk for one hour. 

Students walking during the Grieving Walk Event, 2021
Project by
Shelbie Loomis
Portland, Oregon
bottom of page