It was July 2012. My sister and I were out when we got a call from my dad. He sounded desperate and needed us to come home right away. As we pulled up, there was an ambulance in front of our home. My dad then told us that our Mom was dead.
She died unexpectedly in her sleep, and I was lucky to have kissed her goodnight for the final time. We had no idea just how sick she was, and she was too strong to admit it to us.
While the shock of reality rocked my body, there was this subtle sense that her love was still alive.
Over the last eight years, life has taught me some profound lessons. I’ve gained wisdom surrounding the topic of death. Usually, when I tell people my Mom is dead, I get a sympathetic response, followed by some awkward silence.
I love to break that silence and talk about death. It’s something we all experience, so why are we so hush around it?
My Mom was my best friend. I had more love in our 21 years together than most people get in a long lifetime. I focus on how lucky I am to have had such a close relationship with her. This intimacy has not ended because of her death.
From the moment she died, I had an innate knowing she was near me. Sounds farfetched, but I sensed that she was sticking by me. I kept hearing her voice telling me there was nowhere else she would want to be. And while half of me thought I was going crazy, the other half decided to believe it.
From here I maintained a connection with her, this helped me cope. I talk to her, write to her, and always remember to take a moment to love her.
The Hard Part
I had made a deal with myself to trust these feelings. Even though I couldn’t physically see my Mom, I committed to maintaining a connection to her spirit. But that was not the reality for the people around me.
The hardest part was navigating how western culture treats death.
She died in our home. Therefore the police treated it as a crime scene.
Here I was, moments after hearing my Mom was dead, being questioned by authorities. After a sleepless night with police officers guarding her bedroom, the coroner came and removed the body.
Next came the most challenging part: planning a funeral.
It felt like I was working a full-time job planning and partaking in the funeral. People from every corner of my Mom’s life lined up and expressed their sympathy. I appreciated the gestures, but nearly everyone had the same thing to say.
“I can’t believe she’s gone.”
It was a challenge to maintain my newfound belief that she wasn’t gone. Instead, she had transformed. After multiple services, I was depleted and seeing some severe faults in how my culture treated death.
The Easy Part
I’m not saying everyone is going to understand my experience. Still, I feel it’s worth sharing. If one person is inspired to look at death differently, it’s worth it.
I’m a pretty sensitive, psychic, and intuitive person. I can read vibes and get all the feels. Which meant connecting to her essence came naturally. It wasn’t a question. All I can say is that I knew she was there. It became easy for me to trust this. On Earth, I was her number one, why would it be different now?
I would dream about her. We’d talk, and she’d explain things to me. I’d wake feeling like I learned something and then I would integrate those lessons into my life.
People were shocked by my actions. Many people worried about me. I was the black sheep and was not responding in the usual way. I learned to trust my experience, regardless.
I remember being in grade 3, and our teacher told us that our parents live on through our genes. That stuck with me; it’s funny how life sets you up. My Mom and I look like twins; when I see my smile in the mirror, I feel like I am now smiling for both of us.
One day I told a friend how I experienced my Mom’s transition and that I still felt connected to her. He was a pretty logical guy, so I braced myself for some rebuttal. Instead, he said it makes sense because,
“Energy never dies; it only transforms.”
Realistic Not Spiritual
For years I considered myself to be spiritual, but now I think I am realistic. I’m intuitive and have had my fair share of spiritual experiences. I work as an astrologer and read star charts for a living. But after my friend put it in scientific terms, I realized that my beliefs aren’t wild, woo-woo, or out there; they make sense.
The Days of the Dead
This past January, I visited Mexico. As I walked through one of the cemeteries, I felt overcome with a sense of excitement. I wanted to splash colors, decorations, and celebrations around death. I didn’t want to eliminate all joy with blacks, greys, and sadness. I wanted to keep her alive.
“The days of the dead are truly a celebration of life. When children dance with caricatures of death, eat skull sugar molds and learn to respect that life is brief, they learn there is a circle to life and to not fear death and then are free to enjoy and appreciate every moment.”
After learning about this tradition, I understood there are places worldwide that celebrate life while healing grief and loss.
She Takes the Lead
For some people, this kind of relationship post-death is not realistic. Since the day she died, I was available to more. I was willing to think beyond the constraints of our society and wanted to explore.
From that place of willingness to be open, her spirit took the lead. Little things that I couldn’t have planned began happening.
Here are some examples:
At my Mom’s funeral, the minister talked about her life as a sunset. He said she was like the Sun, and even though it dips below the horizon and out of sight, it leaves an afterglow.
He expressed how her legacy is like an afterglow. It’s still shining and leaving its effect on others.
This sparked our interest in sunsets. Following my Mom’s death, we became sunset chasers, traveling to see the best ones, and with each view, we would feel her love. Many people told us to check out the sunsets on Lake Huron.
Lake Huron is a Great Lake, and when standing on the shoreline, all you can see is water. The Sun dips into the horizon and gives a stunning west coast sunset.
That was one of our destinations. While we were swimming, a lifeguard started blowing his whistle. We had never been to this area before, but the lifeguard went to the same University as my sister. She’s a synchronized swimmer, he’s a lifeguard at the pool, and although they had never talked, he recognized her.
After his shift, he came to hang with us. He invited us to their cottage, where all the guards lived. They were in a band together and had recently released an album called “Divine Time.”
In their living room hung a picture of a surfer, which was the same image as my Mom’s recent profile picture on Facebook.
We became fans of the band, and over the years to come, we would go to their shows and fostered a friendship. Eventually, my partner received a job opportunity along the shores of Lake Huron. We bought our first home in the area and settled down.
As we explored our new neighborhood, we discover that at the end of our street was a place named “Sunset Park”. There was something about how it all came together. I felt as though she was leading me.
We would hear stories like this from many people who knew her. Her golf foursome said they had a monarch butterfly follow them around from hole to hole. We began to attached symbols to her: sunsets and butterflies.
I was surprised to find “Sunset Park” at the end of my street. I also discovered that we lived on the migratory route for the monarch butterflies. Every August, my neighborhood is full of these symbols of transformation. Just like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly, my Mom has transformed into something new.
It Still Hurts
Even though I have had some palpable connections with her spirit, along with many magical moments, it still hurts. There are days when it’s crippling, and I forget about any energetic relationship we have. All I want is to hear her voice or see her in my home.
When I am sad or struggling, it always seems to come back to how much I miss her. Having a relationship with her energy is not a substitute for the real thing. As magical as those moments are, there are days when the physical loss is next level.
Cry it Out
I had a nurse tell me a story about an immigrant family desperately crying and grieving in a hospital room. Their grief was raw and so different from western society’s idea of keeping it all together. It even made some of the other nurses uncomfortable.
“Death has become increasingly taboo, crying has turned into a sign of weakness in a society that privileges strong individuals.”
Even though we often deny raw emotions, we have to let those feelings pour out. At times, this also means talking to a professional or reaching out for help with the grief.
“Most people grieve after certain events, such as the loss of a loved one. This usually causes symptoms of depression and anxiety for months afterward. Grief statistics show just how many people are affected in the U.S.”
Grief is a common denominator across the human experience.
“About 2.5 million people die in the United States annually, each leaving an average of five grieving people behind.
It’s estimated that 1.5 million children (5% of children in the United States) have lost one or both parents by age 15.”
Grief is something we all experience. While it’s challenging to work through, if we stuff it inside, ignore, and don’t talk about it, we cannot heal.
Life is in constant change but rarely do we celebrate that fact. We learn to hold on, stay on track, and commit for the long haul. Currently, as we face a very different world, it’s natural to grieve the old. But, it’s necessary to create space for that process and not feel ashamed of our emotions.
If you are grieving the loss of a person or the old way of life, here’s a summary of what I have learned about death.
- Acknowledge your feelings and let them out.
- Trust your gut feelings. If you feel a new beginning, it’s probably happening.
- Be open to alternative narratives around death and change.
- Appreciate the butterfly. Bless the caterpillar’s body. Grieve the loss, but do so with an awareness of these new beautiful wings.