Checking in with Grief
It's been a year since my mother passed and I began the most profound grief journey I'd ever embarked upon. It's been transformative. It's been intentional. It's been heart breaking. It's been heart opening. To mark a year's time, I wanted to do a reading that checked in with where I was on the journey, took inventory of the lessons, and acknowledged that it is an infinite spiral journey.
And so my new spread, the Grief Journey Spiral. The backdrop image is meant to be a spiral, where keep returning to a point in space but at the same time we're somewhere completely different. That's a grief journey. Highs and lows and medians and ambiguous spaces, all full of potential. I asked where my mother and I have been, are now, and where we might continue to go together.
1) Break open. Ten of Vials.
This is a strange one to begin, and also it feels like this reading is an affirmation of my approach to this grief journey and the gifts it has borne. Where I began, on my day of loss, was deep sadness- a devastation I still don’t have all the words for (and may never). That was expected, I wasn’t confused by that.
What shook me was the lightness that came with it. That was complicated for a time before I understood it. It was requested of me that I should be brave enough to see death as the door to a better relationship with the one I’d lost. My mother’s death created a hole in my heart- and also I now acknowledge that it healed some wounds in it too.
I first came out to my mother as queer after she died. I managed so much of myself to maintain a relationship with her in life. In death we found each other and met each other as we truly were.
Relationships with family are complicated, with parents perhaps much more so. While she lived we had come to some of the best times we had after quite a few tumults, and to maintain that I swallowed words, kept truths to myself that weren’t ever really hidden, just unacknowledged. In the grief journey we went on with each other I found the words, released the truths, and let the full light in. I don’t regret not telling her; I rejoice being able to say it now. It’s a sweet hurt, not a bitter joy.
2) Crashing Wave. Four of Tomes.
I’m not at all surprised about a four showing up here. I spent much of my initial weeks of grief as The Emperor in all their faces: Four of Swords, Four of Wands, Four of Cups, and Four of Pentacles:
Home without my mother to model it for me. The fear that came from worrying about failure. The freedom that came from the lack of comparison. Learning how to hold and keep boundaries. Figuring out (largely through trial and error) how to nourish after having to enforce a boundary. Embracing all the new ways in which my heart and spirit felt vulnerable. Marveling at the spaces that held fast and rooted into the ground deep beneath the ocean. Discovering new ways of knowing her. Rediscovering myself. All through rest, reflection, protection, and celebration.
3) Gasp of Breath. Mystic of Bells.
The Mystic of Bells wasn’t always welcome, though I can’t say I once regretted paying attention. What they have to offer isn’t often wanted, though it’s often what’s needed. And I had to figure out not just how to hear it and repeat it to myself over and over, but what it meant to really listen and take it in.
Grief bears truth, the kind of medicine that burns and needs honey and water to go down.
4) Open Surrender. Awakening.
The words I have for this card, at least the ones willing to form themselves into shareable language, I’ll keep for me. I’ll offer Noel’s interpretation as it rings just as true to what I hold close and quiet.
“We are nearing the end of the cycle now. We have been on a long journey through life, death, rebirth; through creation, destruction, rebuilding… we have learned and relearned what it means to know and grow ourselves.”
5) Break Through. Seven of Tomes.
The work is done. The work continues.
I give thanks and offering to my past self, the gasping breaking me who prayed benediction over my body and spirit, as I sped to the hospital knowing the truth no one would tell me at first, and promised that I had within me what I needed to begin living this grief and whatever I didn’t would be offered to me to allow in. I am awed by the liminality of that moment, existing wholly as me as I was, me writing this now, and my future ancestral self. I connected to my selves across time, I know that in my bones and give thanks to my ancestors. I’m thankful for this moment to take in, truly take inventory of the trials, rewards, and messages of this grief journey. I’m grateful to be affirmed in the work I put into it. I’m open to the challenge of returning to it with even deeper honesty and vulnerability and wisdom.