Bring Out Your Dead: Celebrate and Grieve at Samhain
by Freya Ray
Sometimes it seems the past is this great labyrinthine thing, infecting, affecting, even overshadowing the present. When you’re “doing your work,” it’s easy to get stuck in process hell, reliving the painful events of your past. If, on the other hand, you’re busily pretending your past is no longer affecting you, the serpentine tentacles of old behaviors and fears reach out from your subconscious, pushing you to recreate your pain until it can finally be healed.
Quite frankly, both of these extremes suck.
We all have pasts, we all have old pain that needs to be healed. We have all lost friends, loved ones, cherished places and times. We have all had things that brought us joy that are no longer part of our lives. All of us.
Bring out your dead!
There is a middle ground. I don’t mean “therapy light,” or giving lip service to your “issues.” I mean truly honoring and grieving the things you have lost, in their time, and then moving on.
There is a saying that I’m going to mangle, something to the effect that the deeper our pain, the deeper it carves the channels for our joy. Samhain is not the time of year that encourages you to continue in a shallow, placid existence. Samhain is not big on denial or avoidance. Samhain is the time of the dead. The time when the doors between the worlds open.
This is not a trivial moment! It is a spectacular opportunity to bring out your dead. Bring them out! Celebrate their lives, their passings. Honor the good and the bad of what there was. Grieve, rage, and celebrate. All together.
For the worlds are mingling on All Hallows Eve. The worlds are closer, all this month.
Feel the presence of those who have gone, and take this moment to celebrate their passage through your life.
It is all one; both are the path to truth and beauty. You must explore both of these extremes to be at peace with your past.
To be at peace with what has gone.
Your dead need not be physically dead. They can be dead to you, the relationship shattered. They can be an active part of your life, but some aspect of your relationship is no longer possible. When you think of what you have lost, it may be your innocence, or your childhood home, your first love, your soulmate you’ve never met, the eighties, dependence or independence, being part of a family or a lost pet.
No matter. We have all lost things that were precious.
We move through our lives, full of “I’m fine” and “No big deal.” Or we relive it over and over, complaining about it to anyone who will listen, paying therapists to be our guaranteed audience.
Three things must happen: grieving, celebrating and moving on.
Leave out one of this magical trinity, and it loses its power. You must admit the feelings of pain and loss to get them out of your body. Unshed tears form a wall around your heart like a moat. I can see them when I look at people’s auras. They stay there until you move them out of your body, flowing toward release on your tears.
Celebration cannot be neglected. If you don’t honor the good things brought to your life by something gone, you cannot understand the pain. You cannot embrace the experience as a gift, a lesson. You disempower yourself if you choose to ignore the gifts of any experience in your life. “Poor me, that sucked” is a weak stance. “Yes, that hurt, what a pain in the ass that I had to go through that loss, and yes at the same time I am grateful for the gifts the experience has brought me” is a powerful stance.
“It was my experience, you cannot take it from me. You cannot convince me that I am a lesser person for having lost that thing I cherished. I made no mistakes. I chose my path, as the best path for my growth.”
And then moving on. That’s why we have the seasons, the cyclic energies of the planet. The larger forces that surround us are here to aid us in releasing that which no longer serves us. The energies will be building, coming to a peak. October 31 is a beautiful night for ritual, for honoring, grieving and releasing that which is gone. That which is dead.
Bring out your dead.
Bring them out! Create an altar honoring those who are gone. Put pictures or mementos of your ancestors on it. Arrange photos of family or friends who have passed. Draw representations of things you have lost — pictures of your feelings about hope vanished, possibility eradicated, love lost, opportunities gone. Bring it all up, let it all out. Put it all there, together, where you can see it.
When you’re done crying…
Stand there and love it. Love it! Love them all, all the things you’ve let go of. Love yourself for being a living, breathing being standing there loving what’s gone. Love the gifts of memory that allow you to cherish beings who no longer have physical form. Love all of life, which teaches us with pain as well as joy.
Love. Decorate your altar with offerings. Choose items from your heritage to honor your ancestors, or borrow freely if you resonate more with another culture. Burn sage, offer pollen or cornmeal, put out cups of whiskey or tea, light a cigar, give chocolate or rice or sweet cakes or honey, arrange fresh flowers.
Allow this altar to be a part of your life for a few days, bringing the lost into your consciousness.
When it is time, let it go. Burn offerings or painful reminders. Burn your drawings of your pain. Send prayers of gratitude and good wishes for the departed off wherever prayers go. Send your ex your blessings.
Release, release, release.
When your tears are done, when the time of grieving and celebrating the past is done, let it go. Dismantle your altar, putting photos back where they belong, giving the offerings to the earth, getting rid of that which no longer serves you.
Release, release, release.
Then bring your attention back to you. Still standing, you. Still breathing, you. Still loving. Take your attention and your power back inside your own body, and embrace this moment. This one moment, when all power is yours. When all choice is yours.
And move forward with the living.
Freya Ray is a professional psychic, shaman, writer, and teacher.