“Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you”Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale
Recently, I lost a dear cousin to a long battle with ALS. My first thought on hearing the news was that I am grateful that she is no longer ill and suffering. Acknowledging this doesn’t make her death easier, of course, but the living must take comfort where we can find it. What has made the grieving process a little more difficult is the fact that my family and I do not share a religion. My cousin was a devout Christian and she embodied many of the best aspects of that faith. She was kind and generous and loving to everyone she interacted with, and her journey in Christianity definitely guided her. She was beautiful, and the world is a little sadder without her.
Her celebration of life was held in her home church, where she spent much of her last few months. During the service where her funeral was held, the pastor repeatedly derailed the focus from my cousin and her life to try and convince the audience to convert to Christianity I’m not here to complain about Christians (this time anyway), but it did feel wildly inappropriate to have my focus pulled away from grieving my loved one in this way. Far be it from me to begrudge someone else their healing, but also, yikes.
Neo-Paganism requires a little bit of forging your own path. Our beliefs and our rituals are sometimes lost to time, or need to be pulled, fully formed, from our own minds. I love writing my own rituals or coming up with new spells, however, when something like grief is concerned, I found myself looking for a blueprint, something tried and true that had comforted my ancestors before me, that someone could do for me when I go, without trodding on my cousin’s personal faith. Here’s what I ended up doing:
Note the time of death
Every day for a week, light a candle at that time
Keep it burning for at least an hour
When you snuff the candle, wish them well on their journey
There ya have it! Obviously this can be altered to include your God/ess(es) or expanded to include other people who wish to send off your loved one peacefully. For me, I think of it as a candle in the window to light their way. I have a weakness for lighthouse metaphors.
Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you prefer to deal with a loss of a loved one! Comfort the living and remember the dead. I wish you good health and bright blessings!