Death and Birth are Bookends of Life.
Death is a Rite of Passage that brings a family of initiatory emotions: grief, anger, terror, rage, disappointment, sadness.
But of all these, Grandmother Grief leads the way. She calls forth an Initiation that renews, heals and cleanses our souls.
In our fear based end of life culture, Grief has become something to be managed and Death something to defy. We can bring compassion to ourselves and each other in these places where we see no living examples, no one modeling how to grieve or bring a sacred rite to passage to those facing death. Though we may see no clear examples, we can learn to bring death and grief back to their sacred places in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life. Maladoma Some' talks about this experience:
“Dealing with “the things we cannot escape” (but want to or try to) is best accomplished within the sacred space of ritual. Ritual facilitates and provides us with a unique channel to access higher power. Certain issues don’t want to be resolved mechanistically. We don’t have to know how the power works; we just have to show up and let the higher forces deal with the issues. Ritual provides a safe place for the soul and body to affirm life over death, to affirm continuity over discontinuity.” Maladoma Some’
In one of our End of Life Doula programs, our graduating class designed and experienced a very powerful grief ritual so that all of our incomplete losses and their stories could be shared and released. We prepared ourselves for this ritual in many ways.
The night before, we wrote about a powerful loss and how it had affected us. We created a healing space in the room to honor these loses. We invited a wonderful musician to sing and play guitar.
We wore beautiful white, blue or black clothes. Before we entered the space we were cleansed with special smoke and marked our faces with charcoal tears. We entered this space with sacred intent.
We placed beautiful scarves, fabric, flowers, candles, and photos of our loved ones on the table. And as each individual shared their story of love and loss, we listened with compassion and tears. We ended many hours later filled with awe and love. Our spirits and bodies were refreshed and renewed.
This grief ritual transformed us individually and created a strong caring healing community that we can trust in and rely on. It gives us reference for how to show up for others who will be in our care.
Here are some of my thoughts from my studies on grief and death and from my personal experience from this day.
- I came to see that Death and Birth are bookends of Life. Both are markers of our earthly existence.
- Like Birth, Death is not an end. It is an initiation into a yet unseen, mysterious passage that all human beings enter and through which life is renewed.
- The emotional family surrounding death: grief, rage, fear, terror, anger, disappointment, loss call us to these powerful rites of passage that no other time offers.
- When these feelings are honored, when we are appropriately supported, seen and held to experience these powerful feelings, to stay with them, not run away, in our own time and in our own way, we are transformed. Whether we are the one leaving or the ones left behind, we need support to travel in these rivers of feelings that come to claim us. We need people who know how to keep us safe to navigate the journey.
- Grandmother Grief gives us a way back into our own heart. It is precisely because we love so much that we have the opportunity for a greater human experience.... an opportunity to be initiated into greater inner harmony, unity with our own heart, memory of our innate healing gifts and ancient wisdom, and to be re-affirmed in love with all our relations.
- Because we love so deeply, even if that love and care may be temporarily covered over in resentments or conflicts, it can still give rise to new life. It can provide opportunity to re-fine, re-kindle, re-move, re-store, and shake us free of locked and held feelings. It can rejoin us with the truth of love and the memory of who we are. Becoming a Sacred Passage Doula supports everyone to live fully and completely through end of life.