Ritual & Honey: Grief journeys

I have been writing these words for some time, and so if some of them are familiar it’s because I’ve been weaving this spell for as long as I’ve been grieving, time traveling between then and now and tomorrow to weave them together here and even now I know I’m not finished.

This grieving is a journey.

I lost my mother.

And even saying that is odd, the weight of euphemism; I didn’t exactly lose her, I certainly didn’t misplace her. Still, she is lost to me right now and I’m working my way back to find her. My spiritual practice is grounded in ancestral reverence and connection and so I must believe that I can do that- work my way back to her beyond the veil of death, when I’m ready, when she’s ready. We’ll find each other. I meet grief as the ritual birthing our reunion.

My memory of the experience has been a mess, but one of the few things I remember clearly is the benediction I gave my body and spirit as I faced the reality of my mother’s imminent death.

I did not recognize it for benediction at the time, even as I blessed my body and reminded it that it had the capacity to carry this weight and that it would not bear the same weight forever, even as I told my spirit that it would understand one day and that its light would not cease to shine even if it dimmed in the shroud of grief, but that’s what it was: a spell of protection weaved over myself as one of my most important tethers to this world returned to the otherworld. And at the time I dismissed it as just my mad rambling, as I broke all kinds of speed limits driving back to the hospital.

We are magic, you and I. Never forget it and never dismiss it.

Samhain came and went.

I expected to feel different, to be drawn closer to those I lost and those who came before me well before I had a chance to lose them. What happened is that I experienced the usual fare for a witch during the thinned veil. I dazed in and out, my cats went batshit, and the ancestors whispered in my dreams all night and I barely slept. It would have been exceptional, if not for the fact that this has been my usual for months now.

I’ve been living Samhain for months now.

It’s a mess of contradictions, this crossing over and over. Our grief journeys take place out of time and are timeless all at once. We feel held in place while at the same time feeling like we have no place at all. It feels like the longest breath held and also we are left breathless. I swear there are days I’m sure I’ve experienced every emotion as deeply as it is possible to feel and those same days when I have felt nothing emptiness. This is the experience of moving back and forth through the veil.

I appreciate more than ever why the Wheel of the Year begins with Samhain.

There’s something about the experience of a death that unlocks incredible and terrible power. In the tarot, we find ways to grapple with both the wonder and fear of this experience. We rename it birth and transformation, plant roses and elder by the skulls at the feet of the grim reaper. We remind ourselves that there’s always something else – that at the ending a new beginning must start.

I wonder though that we can sometimes skip over sitting with the space between the death of the old and the beginning of the new. ‘It gets better’ we tell ourselves, but how does it do that? What do we call the travel between Death and what comes next?

Grief inhabits that space in between.

Grief is crucial. Grief is the link between Death and Rebirth, and it is a winding wily journey that promises to give us back our breath even as it takes it away. Grief forces me into my shadow, requires me to dig into the dark earth that forms me and reveal treasures. It returns me to my bones which were/are my ancestors own. Grief reforms me, transforms me, and releases me back to the light, my skin sensitive and alive and awake.

When we experience death, when those whose spirits we are bonded deeply pass from this world and we begin our grief journey, we live a touch of Samhain out of time. On the grief journey, the veil is thinned just like it would be on Samhain and every word we speak is a word of power. When we bless ourselves we are lifted; when we curse ourselves we are fallen. Be careful with the words you choose as you travel this winding path. Let them always be a benediction to guide you as you tread this path.

the wailing hope;
a prayer spell whispered between the grieving and the grieved

i survive each day.
(i miss you)

i will find a new way to survive tomorrow.
(i will miss you)

one day

i know i will thrive. thrive. thrive.
(i will miss you still)

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  1. Mira says:

    Hi Asali, thank you for your words. My mother changed the worlds four weeks ago. I’m in peace with that, and have an impression like: my grieving is about the incarnation that she has finished now. When she has arrived fully in the Otherworld, our souls will be in a new, loving contact. That’s what I experienced when my father went.

  2. Dee says:

    Well written!!!! I lost some one very important to me 36 years ago, and not a day goes by where I don’t think about them…To put it mildly, there has been magic…I’m still searching…(this wasn’t Mum).
    I also miss my Mum, she was one of my best friends…My heart goes out to you totally.

  3. Jenn says:

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    I lost my husband last week and it feels like I am living out of time, hurt to the quick every time I return to the places that I used to walk with him.
    Living in Samhain is a good meditation that I can use to return to a meditative tarot practice. All my questions are too raw to present to the cards right now, but sometime in the future I’ll need to see these intense emotions that are swirling through me reflected

    • Asali says:

      I hold space with you. Thank you for witnessing and affirming, and I hope these words did the same for you. May you find healing and plenty of rest and care during your grief journey.

      All light to you, my dear.

  4. Angela says:

    Witnessed and heard, with gratitude, grief and praise.

    My mother was lost long before she passed a few years ago. I’ve been grieving for years, I’ve been grieving the loss that comes with that kind of experience..

    Your blessing I want to offer back to you, with much care and presence: may we grieve and bloom all at once.

    With care and in grief <3

  5. Kat says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. My mum died almost 2 years ago on new years day and I was absolutely not prepared for how much it would break me. And I’m only now realising that grief is a journey without a fixed endpoint, that seems entirely impossible at the beginning, and all that happens is that one day months/years later you look around and realise the scenery is different and your bag feels lighter and you can’t actually remember how you got there. And you’ll still get tired and have blisters but you can deal with them now and shift the weight and keep walking. But yes, everything has a price, and love is always paid for in salt. Grief remakes us, but unmakes us first. And that is the part that’s so hard to live but so important to honour. Sending you strength and light from one daughter to another.

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