Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ritual for an Unnoticed Passing

It’s never easy to move away from people you love, both physically and emotionally. But life is not stagnant. It’s not static. We grow towards and away from people all the time, spending periods of our lives in fellowship with others, either working towards common goals or bonding in shared experiences. Those lengths of time are important for our growth. They’re necessary. We meet people who become part of our lives at the right time in the right place. Then things change. We change. When that stretch of the journey is over, someone always moves on, growing in another direction. Sometimes it’s us.
That doesn’t mean the love we carry for the people we were close to ever fades. When a connection ends it isn’t necessarily because someone did something wrong. Change is natural and though physical distance may grow, the emotional quality doesn’t. Loving people is the best thing we can do and once we love, we carry that bond within us wherever we are.
What happens when you don’t know someone you hold close to your heart has died? What happens when you don’t discover their passing for months, or even years? What do you do then?
I have often had the misfortune of discovering that a friend has died, the funeral has occurred, and everyone who knew about it is securely in the process of moving on. But for me, in the sudden knowing, the grief is fresh and painful and often met with dismissive attitudes by others, as if it’s different because the person died months ago. As if it should be different that I haven’t seen them in years. As if any of that truth diminishes the loss of them from the world.
When someone we love dies we hold funerals to honor the vessel, the body that held the deceased, and send them back to the earth, the place we all come from. The second purpose of a funeral is to serve as a space where we can grieve the physical loss of them, honoring who they were to us and the part they played in our lives. This part of the funeral is about the living.
It was hard for me, to grieve far from home for people no one around me knew. Over the years I’ve created a simple ritual that speaks to what I need. It’s my way of honoring the person who has passed on and speaking to the impact they had in my life. It is also a way of wishing them safe travels into the Otherworld, whether they have already crossed over or not. This is something you can do alone or something you can do with mutual friends. It’s something you can ask your close friends to be part of, so that they can hold space for you and witness your memory of the life that passed. Make it personal.
 What is remembered, lives.

Ritual for an Unnoticed Passing
Light a candle. The flame is a focus point. It requires oxygen to flourish. It reminds us to breathe, to be present. It reminds us of the task at hand. If you associate a particular scent with the deceased you could use a candle with that fragrance. If not, but if scent soothes you, the smell of lavender is calming for those in grief.
Speak the name of deceased. Say out loud when they died. Speak aloud how they died. I cannot express how important a person’s name is. It’s how we’re taught to identify ourselves. It’s how our loved ones call for us and speak to us while we walk the earth. Speaking the name of one who has passed brings the vibration of their energy present. Intention is good but vocalizing that intention is better. Our thoughts get muddled in our heads and we can feel multiple complex emotions at the same time. Putting those thoughts and emotions into words sharpens the picture and brings clarity to what we intend.
Allow yourself to admit the sadness you feel at their loss. This is important. This ritual is for you. Share the news of how you found out they died. This is your chance to speak to that moment of grief.
Physically burn something. It’s important that we mortals use tangible tools in working emotional rituals. It keeps us present, grounded. It keeps us here when our spirits might want to be elsewhere. If you have access to an outdoor fire, or an indoor fireplace, you could burn herbs, like dried rosemary or sage, or squares of muslin with prayers written on them. You could make wood fetishes to burn, or even a muslin and herb poppet.
Whatever you burn, use this moment to say farewell. If you have no access to a fireplace, carve a separate candle with words or images and burn that in a holder. Say a blessing for their spirit as the flames consume your fetish. Let your heart speak to your wish for them to be at peace. Let yourself feel what it is you are feeling. Cry, sing, laugh…
Drink some water. Take in a bit. Remember that water is necessary for life. We are made of it and for every tear we shed we can take in more water to replenish ourselves. Don’t be afraid to cry, don’t be afraid to let your body drain. You can always rehydrate. You can always take more in. Offer some water in memory of the life no longer lived.
Take a breath in. Remember you are alive. Remember you are here.
Bring some joy back into the space now. Share something about the deceased that makes you smile, something they did to help you. Tell funny stories of madcap adventures. Do something they enjoyed. Make their favorite food and savor it. Listen to music you listened to together and dance yourself into the very edges of your fingers and toes.

Honor their life by living yours. When you look up into the night sky, see the echo of their laughter shining back at you from the stars above us. Those who walk with you in life, walk with you in spirit until the end of your days, even as their soul is at peace. May your heart be healed and joyful.
May it be so. Ase.

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