and the Need for Praise
It’s Christmas Day 2019 and as the tumultuous year of 2019 draws to a close, I feel melancholic. This morning about 4 am, a dear priestess sister died in a hospice bed in Asheville, after a difficult death process. Thirteen of us priestess sisters from my lineage had been energetically gathering around her and her priestess sister partner for the past week or so, as it became clear she might be in her last days or weeks. We managed to quickly put many support pieces in place so that she and her beloved could experience a conscious blissful deathing process, but her soul had other plans. Even so, she received visits, many words of love, and outpourings of energy and prayers coming to her from many directions before she left. Now comes the time for grieving that she has left this earth, praise for her many gifts and contributions, and eventually a celebration of her life.
Two weeks ago Lucky died, a dog whom Gary and I inherited in early 2014 after my stepfather’s death. He was with Gary in California. Then 5 days later, my beloved kitty, Cali, who had been blind for the past 9 months, died quickly in front of me. I had just gotten home from a trip and had just walked in the door from a meeting. Although there are blessings and relief in these passings because of the level of energy it takes for us to care for them when they are ill, the sorrow has been all-encompassing lately.
I am also a reader for Tammy Billups not-yet-released book called Animal Soul Contracts: Sacred Agreements for Shared Evolution. I had been reading the chapter on Sacred Transitions that featured my story about a previous beloved dog’s (Lily) passing years ago, and Lucky’s story. The synchronicities of these last few days have been uncanny and obviously engineered to keep my heart wide open. I had just completed grieving Lucky and then Cali, and was tearfully reminiscing about Lily’s death ceremony in Tammy’s book when my sister-friend died.
If you have read my previous two blogs on PTSD and the Death Wish (scroll down here to find them under this blog), you may resonate with me when I say that being in Earth School right now is challenging. I have been asking Spirit to show me where I am next meant to be of service, and suddenly these and other situations presented themselves, all at the same time! If you do not have a disaster, a tragedy, a need or a crisis around you, you are blessed. However, you might be called at any moment to step up, and step into, a situation that needs just who you are. That is a blessing too. We are here to serve in whatever way is ours to do. That service serves our soul’s evolution and gives us purpose.
So let’s talk about grief. Are you able to grieve when you lose someone or something dear to you? What do you feel? Do you go numb? Do you freeze up? Do you distract yourself? Do you self-medicate with food, drugs, alcohol, and busy-ness? If that’s your usual habit, try breathing and going deeper. Find your sadness, even if it is painful. Open to tears, and not just a few. Go even deeper. Breathe. Feel and stay with it till you can cry, keen, wail, and call out your pain. Play music that makes you sad. Find someone to hold you, and if you do not have someone, hire a healer to help you get there.
Attend a grief ritual in your area. They are happening everywhere these days, as we wake up to the gift that death is. You can go here for a beautiful 27-minute video called “The Gifts of Grief” by my sister-friend Melody LeBaron. Schedule a Shamanic Breathwork™ session (see the series based on these blogs that starts in late January here in my community) It may take a while and you may have to go back to your grief many times. You will know when you are complete, for the moment. I find that my initial grieving is intense and deep. Then it comes up when it is triggered by other grief, for the world, for a friend’s animal passing, for a friend’s grief or a story or song that evokes sadness. I don’t apologize or feel shame or guilt, I just let it flow until it is done. Our grieving is as unique as we are. As you will see, the ability to grieve is essential for many reasons.
Joe and I have been reading the work of Martin Prechtel and in particular his recent book The Smell of Dust on Rain: Grief and Praise. Martin is one of the first teachers to speak about the need for grief and praise, as food that the dying and the dead need to be able to make their way across the veil. Other teachers and students of Martin’s have followed this guidance. Many cultures tell stories about the dying, talk to them about their lives, sing their praises, speak gratitude for the gifts they have brought, and celebrate them with more stories and praise after they have gone. They cry out loud and have professional wailers and keeners to do this for them and with them.
Our western culture has been afraid of loss and death, and we are in need of a have a reeducation so that we can approach the inevitable in a healthier way. It’s as if we abandon our dead because we do not know how to honor them, or face our own grief. It is typical for divorces to happen after a child dies, for friends to disappear when someone is dying or is very ill, and when we lose an animal beloved, for us to try to forget and move on. After all, didn’t we learn to never talk to a dying person about dying, and didn’t we also learn when an animal dies that it was just an animal?
The better approach would be to value those that have died in every way you can out loud, and let them and everyone know what their contribution was to this world. In my priestess sister Toby Evan‘s 2019 book Dead, But Not Gone: Are You Part of the Soul-Bridge to Guide Them Home she recounts stories of many souls and large groups of souls who have been earthbound because they died suddenly, were not prepared, were confused, had no belief in any life after death, were too attached to people who could not let them go, stayed with a leader who did not leave, or were just not honored. As a healer and empath who has been visited by earthbound souls her entire life, she shows us how to honor those who have passed so they can have another chance to meet with their Higher Self and go to their spiritual destination. I had no idea that there were so many that needed this kind of assistance. At present Toby is using her prairie labyrinth and working with many around the world to create Soul-Bridge Crossings for the four primary races, which will likely lighten up the earth in powerful ways to come.
Part of the grief and praise that is called for now is for the peoples of the world who have been persecuted, dominated, stolen from, enslaved, and worse. These are our ancestors. We come from these people, and everyone has experienced the cruelty of the dominators and controllers of the world in some way. Remembering is an important step that can lead to forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and maybe even restitution. Wouldn’t it be liberating to see the USA make amends to Native Americans, to African-Americans and other cultures that simply came here for refuge, and instead found cruelty? What a joyous day that will be when we can actually openly celebrate all the gifts these people have added to our own cultures in a good way.
Melody LeBaron says that grief that is buried alive never dies. It ends up in the lungs (in many healing systems the lungs are directly connected to the emotion of grief), and can cause lung issues, heart issues, depression, anxiety, and emotional coldness and cruelty, either toward self or others. Un-processed grief may be an underlying cause of the loss of heart in the world right now. Think of all the wars this planet and its creatures have endured and humans have participated in through the ages. Imagine the millions of ungrieved soldiers that have died alone in battle, and the many “civilians” murdered in acts of war.
Grief that is not allowed to be fully witnessed and expressed has the potential to turn on us, and diminish our life force. It does not matter if that grief is covered over by PTSD, anger, self-medication or addiction. It can be unearthed and healed with healthy grieving and healthy praise. Another teacher that has been helpful to me in my own grieving is Frances Weller. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief he quotes William Blake who says “the deeper the sorrow the greater the joy”. Francis says when we send our grief into exile we simultaneously condemn our lives to an absence of joy. Melody also says that whatever we grieve well and integrate within us, becomes part of the medicine we carry for others, who will inevitably need our wisdom at a future time for their grief.
If you’ve not yet done so, do yourself a favor and begin to work with your grief. If you are already grieving someone, honor your process, affirm yourself, and take your time. Name what you have not yet grieved. Let yourself bravely look at those pictures, or read those letters, or pick up one of the books I have mentioned about death, dying and grieving or watch Stephen Jenkinson’s film Griefwalker or his book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul Perhaps there is a book a friend has highly recommended. Do ceremony to honor your beloveds on special days, and if you have a beloved or an animal companion die, honor her with a poem, a memorial, and/or a special memorial altar or wall.
I leave you with a poem my partner Joe wrote for Cali, and a picture of my memorial wall. Enjoy, and if the tears come for goddess sake, please enjoy the liquid nourishment they give your heart!
by Joe Landwehr
I hear tell that you lived a life of brave adventure,
and that in your day, you were a feisty force to be reckoned with.
I knew you only as a buddha cat, descending more deeply into silent wisdom and grace
as blindness swallowed you.
Even then, you sought the occasional adventure,
and found your own way around
with patient probing of the edge.
But mostly you were a supreme teacher of presence,
responding to touch and sound
but mostly riding the ethereal airwaves
in that uncanny way that only master cats can do.
We, your slow and wayward students,
will miss you sadly.
I hope wherever you are now,
it rains kitty treats
and there are plenty of new adventures to be had
worthy of your sweet and sassy heart.
May you remember our love, and may it guide your way through the darkness
into the light.