Living Ghosts: Flower Essences for Grieving the End of Connection
Guest student blog post by third year Cecemmana student Sirama Bajo.
If this were a post about our ancestors, about the season opening up the gates, thinning the veil for us to speak and commune with our dead, there would be an easier start for this herbalist and writer. I can feel that Dia de los Muertos has come, and gone. A new season is peeking through the thick grey clouds with its wetter days, which remind us not to move about without an awareness of lower temperatures. We show respect to the cold by bundling up. We find comfort by seeking warm shelter and warm foods; we see that things have begun to radically slow down. Autumn has not released us completely, however, and although winter would have us as quickly as possible we really aren’t there yet –and this is why I wish to take you back a few weeks.
We all know the group of holidays that mark the start of the month is all about mystery and shadow; from Halloween closing up October, to Day of the Dead following suit a few days later. While this November was indeed a month of ghosts, of restless souls, I am not exactly referring to the dead. I hope I haven’t lost you. Aside from the usual otherworldly spookiness this month was marked by a phenomenon. Have you ever had the sensation that something, or someone you have let go of, is still hanging around your energy field, your consciousness or your subconscious? Not someone who has passed away but someone who is very much alive but you rather not think about, or maybe whom you cannot help but think about. Maybe it has been days or maybe even years and yet still the separation seems unresolved and without closure?
Yes, I’m talking about different kinds of apparitions. The frightening sights and sounds that showed up for several people in my circle this year, had much less to do with those we bury and much more with the dis-embodied memories, the ghouls of a past that feels like a trail littered with broken relationships.
There is great difficulty in mourning; grief is a long process that seems interminable and impossible. All of us can relate to loss in that way. Do we know anything about the other kind? Do we really know how to grieve the people we love who are still alive but just gone, from our lives?
Not all ghosts were once living beings that were taken from us. Some choose to leave on their own. Then there are the pitiful ones whom we, having spent all our patience, energy, compassion, shut the door upon. Or maybe we walked away having discovered a new type of compassion: compassion for ourselves, for example, so necessary in realizing and in stating our boundaries and our needs. Perhaps we are only looking for peace and must retreat from a connection because we see clearly the turmoil that comes from relating to these persons. Or maybe it was them who chose to part, having found us, our traumas, our tantrums, exhausting. No matter how it comes about, separation from a living being can be just as excruciating as having to contend with their death.
It is no wonder that deep in the shadows of our psyche we might suppress the thought, “It would be easier if they were dead”. Shameful but honest, many of us have had this compulsory thought. It is only our inner self, finding a way to cope with the pain, or rather trying to find a way out. Our fears wear the faces of our old lovers, old friends, old relatives, with whom we have no contact now. Our insecurities and vulnerabilities suddenly have names. This is the reality that I propose: could it be that your nervous system cannot tell the difference between a death and a separation? Could we grapple with this concept because the feelings and the facts are in dissonance? I invite you to hold this possibility.
It is difficult enough to say farewell to those we love whom we will not see again, because of the irreversible death process, yes. There are social measures in place to observe this finality, painful and devastating as it is. This we call, being in mourning.
What I am putting forward is the concept that human beings experience a very similar process to mourning but with living beings, one that has not been given a name. This process of relationship ruptures call: going through a break-up, had a falling-out, being disowned, etc. All of these explain the situation but create little to no space in which to feel, process and transform the feelings of loss.
I invite you then to spend some time right as November ends, to grieve, not the dead, but the living ghosts. These are plants that have allowed me some space on my journey of moving on with what seem to be charnel house full of connections laid to rest and helped me to move through, or face these grieving states. I leave you with these powerful medicines and with this intention; may the ones that resonate with you, be willing to work and to create more integration and healing within you. Grief is a reminder of life and of being alive. It is not a brick to weigh us down. If we can listen to grief we might find it has a lot of wisdom to give. Here are the flowers.
Inmortal Flower Essence: For the old “It’s not you, it’s me” line or feeling. This cliché has been seared into the minds of all those who are terrified of rejection. “But how can it not be me?” We might ask, grasping at the other person. But we are already convinced. Although this application of Inmortal is un-usual at first glance, we might find that the self-blame and inadequacy that we might feel when rejected, can really come from a bit of memory loss about who we are on a cosmic level. This flower essence cleans the foggy mirror that isn’t reflecting the Divine within us. It reminds us of our righteous place on this Earth. When we feel rejection we might reject ourselves and depending on how fragile our self-esteem, it can easily become about being inadequate and simply not good enough for the other person. “Maybe we aren’t good enough for anyone?” Time to drop the storyline. Inmortal is a reminder that the infinite resides within no matter how confused we might become about that truth when we are hurting.
White Chestnut Flower Essence: Our trauma brains will do a number on us when we part with someone. Repetitive and intrusive thoughts about the person who we have been separated from can haunt our days. Some of us walk around pushing thoughts away about how they are doing, what they are up to and if they miss us? Others, with more masochistic recordings, might examine everything that went wrong up until the severing of contact. Others, still, might agonize by repeating the happy moments over and over again as if to keep them from escaping in the unpredictability that is the situation. Obsessive, intrusive thoughts, that cannot be controlled are indeed a form of control. We fixate in order to find order to the chaos we feel, to the instability. Panicked nervous systems breed panicked thoughts. White Chestnut allows us distance from the repetitive, rehearsing, lonesome rehashing of the details, in order to achieve a witness perspective about the situation. It allows us to tap into the hurts that we feel but which we are desperately trying to avoid. We can be here, present for the reality of what happened with this person, instead of running around a hamster wheel of avoidance.
Star of Bethlehem: Shock. The news hits us, or the realization. He, She, They are no longer a part of our life. Whatever way we might experience them now is still not direct experience. There is no contact, and there will not be any contact. Even if that could change in the future we have to come to terms with this particular ending. There is no grave, no burial, no funeral. No community ritual to hold us as we contend with the facts, the feelings. We must simply accept a vanishing, often without much resource. This can leave us in a grief, marked by what feels like a thickening of space and a slowing down of time. We go through the day, living in a sort of suspended state, trying to assimilate the loss. This state can resemble a trauma response of “freeze”. Star of Bethlehem allows us to gently integrate the new information about the person being gone as it opens up the opportunity to come back to our senses and our sensorial experience. He/She/They are not there, and they are not coming back, but we are still here.
Thank you for accompanying me as I attempt to flesh out a complex and difficult set of processes. I hope that you have related to some of the plants and states discussed and I hope that these essence applications can serve you, or someone you care about, in navigating the emotions that can arise during frightening times like these. I wish you a beautiful ending to your autumn season and happy winter wishes!