And all this time I have been lying
Lying in secret to myself
I’ve been putting sorrow on the farthest place on my shelf…
Pagans have fantastic ways of celebrating! We have wonderful holidays and many of them, so we have much to celebrate. Unfortunately, there is very little written from a pagan standpoint about how to grieve, or more importantly what to do if you are grieving and how you can move through it. Earlier this year I lost my dear brother, unexpectedly. I learned right away that I would have to figure out which aspects of the craft would help me through this because there is scarcely anything written about pagans and grief. I hope the following list will help others who live a pagan lifestyle to better deal with loss and the long road through it.
1. Let ‘er Rip
Don’t hold emotions inside. Go to an isolated spot and let them out. I emphasize “isolated” as others may view you as a bit crazy! You may have emotions of anger and regret and hopelessness. Don’t put your sorrow on the farthest shelf! Yell and scream until you feel better. This is helpful for anyone, not just those of us who follow a pagan path.
2. Use Art Therapy
This is a great idea for artist and non-artists alike. If it is sorrow you are feeling, sketch that. Draw exactly what it feels like to you. If you would rather paint or work in clay that’s fine too. You may be surprised at what you create. I find this to be very therapeutic. Dr. Rachel Remen, who has combined the art and science of medicine in a holistic approach, states that “at the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source.”
You may find the emotional satisfaction will come from the creating of the art and not the final piece.
3. Create a Shrine
Archaeologists have found altars and shrines in all cultures throughout the world. While some would caution against creating a shrine which which may hold you back from healing, I think shrines can be celebratory and joyful. At the very least, they are an outward portrayal of what our heart and spirit may be feeling, and a way to remember those who have passed away in a positive light. They can be simple or elaborate. Collect pictures and mementos that remind you of and honor the person who has died. Arrange them in a way that is pleasing to you. You may even create a small travelling shrine in an Altoids tin or some other small box or container. Include pictures of your loved one and other things that speak to you. The possibilities are endless.
4. Talk to the Dead
Being more of a traditional witch myself, I believe that spirits of our ancestors are all around and able to hear you. All you have to do is communicate with them. They have a vested interest in you and can be a big help. I often call my brother into the circle with me as a friend and helper. He was very important to me during his life and he will continue to be a good friend even though he is no longer among the living. Unfortunately, western culture is not comfortable with the spirit realm or death. I think most people are missing out on a great comfort by not knowing or understanding that their loved ones do go on. Do not dismiss a happy dream about someone who has died as idle fantasy. They want you to know they are alright and doing well. Shrines and ancestor altars are always appropriate. Working with family, especially people who were close to you is always the safest anyway. Any work with the dead should begin with people you knew and had a good relationship with in life.
Right after my brother died I found myself angry at him. The circumstances surrounding his death were not good and I felt that he was partially to blame. It was around this time that I received a not so subtle message from him on a petition spell I wrote that he was sorry. It was plain as day, and my anger evaporated. The dead do speak. Are you listening to them?
5. Host a Burning of Regrets
One of the most difficult things about losing a loved one is the guilt and regret that go along with it. My regret was that I must have been overly focused on my life not to have seen that my brother was suffering. I went through every message and communication that I had with him and I could find nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, this did not ease my guilt at not knowing something was amiss. The best I could do was to write my regrets down on a piece of paper and release them by burning them. This actually helped me on several levels. This works even better if you use flash paper that you can throw into the air and “poof” it’s gone. Dark moon is a great time to do this. Better yet, gather a group of family members or friends and release regrets together.
6. Get Outdoors and Celebrate Life
This one takes motivation to get outside. Sometimes I didn’t feel like doing it, but it always made things better. My brother died in the winter just before spring. Things warmed up and started growing not long after his passing. I would force myself to take my camera outside and photograph any living thing I saw. What I found is that there are so many things that deserve celebration and that genuinely made me happy. Here are some animals and plants that I photographed during this time.