Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grief for Pagans

It’s still winter, and during winter months death rates increase dramatically.  Grief is part of the holiday season for a lot of families, as a result of this phenomenon.  Some pagans I’ve spoken to have said “grief is grief, it’s a human thing, not a pagan thing”.  They’re not entirely wrong, since it is a human emotion.  The issue I have with that attitude however, is that as pagans we’re affected differently.

Don’t get me wrong, in spite of knowing about the cycle of life and how death is a natural thing, and in some cases a big relief, I know that


If you’ve never lost a friend, watched a family member die, or had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved pet, then you may not be able to relate to this emotionally.  However, reading this may help you in the future.  If you’ve recently lost someone dear to you, I’m sorry if this post is a trigger for a flood of emotions, but it’s my hope that you’ll gain something useful out of continuing to read.

As pagans and magical practitioners, we play a more active role in the functioning of the universe.  We actively reach out to spirits, deities, and the dearly departed as part of our spiritual lives.  The attachments we form with other people frequently lead to telepathic bonding, shared images/sensations/emotions, etc.  When someone we love dies, we *must* sever that bond and quickly in order to avoid keeping their spirit stuck on our plane and unable to move on.

Recently, my cat Simon died.  I’ve had Simon and his sister Jezebel living with me for the past 13 years, since they were 4 months old.  A few years ago, Simon had a nasty case of pancreatitis and hadn’t been really well ever since.  Last Friday, he was having trouble breathing so I rushed him to the emergency vet.  I got home around 1am, thinking that with them watching him in the oxygen tent he’d be better in the morning and so I went to sleep.  At 5am, I woke up with my heart racing, knowing he’d died.  When I called the vet, I got it confirmed.  While I was crying, I went to my temple room.  As soon as I could talk coherently, I lit incense and a candle, called him by every single endearing name I could remember ever having used, and said “I bless you and release you because I love you”.  I severed the bond so his spirit wouldn’t be trapped here, so he could move on to the Summerland.

It still hurts to write that, but no matter how much I’m feeling and no matter how many tears fall, I know that I did what I should have to release him from the loving bond we shared.  I’m missing him terribly, but I’m not keeping his spirit prisoner here, and that’s a relief for me.

Because we routinely manipulate the mystic forces of the cosmos, we have to be responsible in all areas of our life.  If you’ve lost loved ones and not released them, you don’t have to wait to do so.  If you’re still grieving and being haunted by them, release them with love.  Severing the bond doesn’t mean you stop loving them, it just means you don’t have them chained up in the metaphysical basement.  And, it helps you move through the pain.

The other thing I do, is that when the pain hits and I’m trying not to cry, I purposely bring up a happy memory.  By replacing the grief with a happy memory, you make it easier for yourself to remember the love instead of hurting.  With Simon, one of those memories is of him and his “string on a stick”.  It was a clear acrylic rod with a fuzzy rainbow string attached that he not only loved to play with, but he would play fetch with.  That silly boy would drag it from other parts of the house to where I was so I’d play with him.  I could throw the stick, and he’d go grab the string and drag it back to me.  There were a few times that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find the string laying across my throat.  I never was sure *quite* what message he was trying to send, so I’d call him my little Mafia cat and hide the string before bed for a few days.

You can do this with your loved ones too, and you will find it helpful.  If you work with a group, don’t be afraid to reach out for support.  Grief is one of the most disempowering emotions I have felt, and you have to let people help you rebuild your strength.  Letting friends help you is also a gift to them.

Grief and depression can have a negative impact on your immune system.  Physically, you need to also make sure you're eating nutritious food with good vitamin content as well as staying adequately hydrated and getting enough sleep.  

The other thing to keep in mind while grieving, is to purify yourself and your space regularly.  I’m still smudging daily, because I’m exuding grief vibes all over the house.  I’m dousing myself with a purification potion (ie tea made from purification herbs with some love thrown in) before I get out of the shower.  This is how you avoid creating a depression spiral in your living space.  Plus, the act of doing something positive for yourself like this helps stave off the helpless feeling that grief can bring to you.

With enough work on it, you will find the grief easier to bear, and then you’ll just remember the love with just a little melancholy.  Some time after that, even the melancholy feelings will fade and you’ll just be left with the love and the happy memories. 

I am not trained in either psychology or psychiatric medicine, but these simple methods have worked for me over the years.  I have lost best friends, pets, and dear family members and struggling through each of those losses got me to where I am today, with better tools to handle the emotions.

I hope you remember the love.


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