Sunday Spread: Simple tips for not so simple lives
It’s September, loves!
I’ve been relishing the mild Southern CA breeze! It gets me all twitterpated, feeling certain I need to go pea coat shopping, even though, inevitably, my trusty black hoodie generally does the trick and my jackets stay stored but for a few dead winter outings. Ah, but as I write this I’m not just getting a balmy OC day, I’m in the Pacific Northwest! The air is crisp, I’m drinking a cup of coffee, and staring up at a wall of green! There’s something about the Fall that’s so promising and pregnant with insight. I can’t help but breathe a little deeper and trust in the ever present magic of renewal.
After slowing down and melting into August’s Sunday Spread, Ring of Fire, things started to clear a bit.
About halfway through preparing last month’s post I realized I was rising out of a three to five-year cycle of grief (depending on how you count it up). There were the clearer deaths, the more convoluted losses, and a lot of very necessary goodbyes. I was shocked at the sheer volume of it when I started to trace my way back. I’m hoping this ‘rise’ turns out to be as Phoenix-like as it sounds, but for now, I’ll take a good dust-free feather shake.
I come from a family who doesn’t ‘do death well’ or maybe more accurately doesn’t attend to it much at all. There were a few losses in my childhood that only got cleared up in my early to mid-twenties, so for the last decade or so I’ve kept grief close, much like an unlikely road-trip companion. I wasn’t sure I wanted her along for the ride but it was awkward to keep realizing we were heading in the same direction without inviting her along. I knew I disliked how avoiding grief felt, so I thought I was doing the opposite by turning towards her often throughout my travels to check if she was still there. Was she okay? Did she need any tissues?
On top of the deaths, there were quite a few goodbyes: to partners, home/sacred space, and fur babies. There were also goodbyes to ideas and beliefs about humans, relationships, and family, both biological and chosen. Some of it felt universally timed but, looking back, the speed was pretty fast and furious. It’s probably why it was so easy for me to miss that it was happening. Leaning into any one thing too deeply probably would have pulled me underwater, and left me too busy gasping for air to deal with the subsequent wave. So, unconsciously, I mistook leaning forward for leaning in. It took me pretty off guard when I realized I was rising out of yet another cycle I didn’t realize I needed to process.
The lesson I learned this time around was how grief doesn’t always look (or feel) the way that we’d expect.
I realized that grief had graced my last half a decade in so many different lovely and heartbreaking guises I could barely keep count of them all. I learned I hadn’t quite shaken my family pattern – I had been thoughtful about attending to my grief, but I hadn’t quite mastered the art of letting it take up space.
Sometimes it looked like movement, movement that looked like progress until it tumbled off into swirling and spiraling. Sometimes it looked like falling in love and being met with the inevitable sacrifices of making space for new connections. Sometimes it looked like manifesting family with such fervor that it became unclear what was real and what was a mirage of hope and intention. And sometimes it looked annoyingly close to how you’d expect, with tears and long goodbyes at cars, and caskets, and moving trucks.
There’s nothing wrong with a grief cycle, but every cycle needs a reprieve. I’m ready for some lightness, some ease, hell, even some superficial gluttony. I’m ready to move through and move on. However, I want to make sure that I’m taking these lessons into the next part of my journey. The lessons you learn from grief, they can’t really be rushed. You can’t skip steps or take shortcuts. You know those old video games with the pixel-ey characters? They have some good life lessons in them. You have to figure out the right order to pick up all the tools, so you have them when you get to the next challenge. Leaning into a practice of grief isn’t just about letting go, it’s about letting your grief take up the emotional and physical space it needs to clarify itself – that’s how you leave with all the tools you need to “level up.”
Tarot spread: Letting go and leveling up
This spread is about inviting in what you’re grieving or feeling challenged saying goodbye to, figuring out what tool/support you need to ‘level up’, and lastly how to integrate it to support you get to where you’re trying to go. It’s a practice in letting your grief take up emotional and mental space.
Shuffle and ready your deck for a pull as you usually would. If you feel like you need a little support bolstering your courage or reminding yourself about the benefits of facing these cycles, pull The Death card and sit with it for a bit. You can replace it in your deck before you do your pull but if you already know that facing these things at all is a bit of a challenge for you feel free to just keep it out. Spend some time with its message, get comfortable with it, maybe share a cup of tea together.
Card 1. The Struggle/Grief Object
If you are already clear about the focus of your grief this card will hone in on it with some extra insight. It might offer you an explanation of the direction to look in order to face the work left to do. If you’re feeling a bit stuck and uncertain about exactly what is holding you back, this card will provide some clarity. Perhaps, there is something you thought you had released that you need to return to or a decision that hasn’t fully exposed itself to your attention.
Card 2. The Goal/Direction
This will give you feedback as to where you need to head. It can sometimes be difficult to do the work when you can’t see the other side. This card isn’t meant to be “future telling” but rather to give you a scope of experience on the other end. Do you need to communicate something? Is there processing to do? Is some space and boundary setting what you need? Each object and grief cycle is a bit different. This will help clarify the specific work in front of you.
Card 3. Tool/Support for Integration
This card is to help you get from understanding and clarifying your grief to your goal. It’s a tool to help you “level up.” This card is pulled crosswise and can offer insight in both directions. What reminders do you need to help you move forward? What might be holding you back? You want to read this card in both directions so you can see what is aiding and challenging to the work of integration.
Card 4. The Heart of the Matter
You’ll notice I tend to always add this last card to my pulls. In this particular spread, it’s a little extra comfort for your heart and journey. The practice of letting go may be necessary but it can also be exhausting. Read this card with gentleness. Even if the meaning may be strong, know that it’s an offering of support and not a criticism.
September affirmation and ritual practice
This is a reminder the work of letting go, leaning into grief, death, rebirth, and renewal, and letting those processes take up space is heart work. Still, we often find ourselves surrounded by material objects that hold us in these past experiences. These objects aren’t to be scorned; they may be beautiful reminders, love notes, and promises of intention. It’s important, however, to assess whether these items are tools that we need to help us in our next “level up” or anchors of stasis to previous work. Figuring out how to sort what to keep and what to release is part of the physical work.
If you’re unsure which category these material pieces fall into, take your time with them. Set them out and leave the cards you pulled amongst them. Maybe even set them out and pull again. If you find at the end that you’re not ready to let them go or are still unsure sit with them for a while and meditate on them with this affirmation.
You may find that physically releasing them becomes easier, or that physically releasing them becomes unnecessary because you’ve withdrawn the stuck energy from them. When this happens, you can continue to enjoy them as reminders of lessons learned from experience.
If you’re ready to release the objects, think back to your pull. Is there any insight into where to send them? Do you need to move where you keep them or move them out of your space? Is there someone for whom they may serve as a tool?
The practice of physically letting go can be a powerful one but the trick is to get the timing right. There’s no use in forcing a cleanse if you’re not ready. Grieving hearts deserve comfort. Sometimes letting your grief take up space means the act of releasing items and sometimes it means letting those items take up physical space in your environment.
I had been toting around some mementos from the last cycle, gifts of travel and intention, that were especially charged with the relationship lessons grief has to offer. I had been ready to release them for a while but I knew they needed a bit of honoring ritual, a little space to breathe, and that some fresh air wouldn’t hurt either. I found some big trees and lush moss to send them off with love. I hope they end up traveling with someone else for a bit, they weren’t for me to carry anymore but I imagine they have some wonderful wayward wandering left to inspire.
Thank you for traveling with Grief and me through this shift into Fall, Little Red Tarot readers. I’m taking a deep breath, soaking in the tree healing, and raising my coffee mug to all of your journeys.
To letting go and leveling up!
Traci (She/They) is a therapist, yoga teacher, life coach, and human in progress. They offer in-person/online therapy and life coaching services from their private practice in Fullerton, CA, USA, run the educational resource hub Queer University, and write love letters by request at Shame Kills Love.
Sunday Spread: Simple Tips for Not So Simple Lives is their offering to this wonderful alternative playground of tarot. It will be filled with a monthly collection of simple self-care ideas, intentions, and rituals for the beautiful chaos that we call life.