by Odette Nightsky
I grew up a lover of graveyards. These places to me were landscapes of mystery and stories told of those who were no longer in form. I also remember watching a very old version of Charles Dickens, Christmas Carol and freaked out when pushed into the dark grave, along with some article about a body being dug up only to find the fingers worn down as they tried to scratch their way out. This must have been after the times of using the bells to ring to say I’m still alive!! This was my intro into the world of death other than the loss of beloved pets which ripped me asunder.
The first time that the death of a human really hit home for me was when I was in my early 20s returning from overseas to find out that my best friend had been killed on an autobahn in Germany. I had missed the funeral and could not resonate with anyone due to being out of sync with the grieving process everyone else was in, as for me it was still a massive shock.
The strongest memory I have of that time is a friend saying to me ‘Oh but you know they are fine, they are on their way to another life.’ Honestly, I wanted to slap her at that moment. She brushed off my grief as if was something irrelevant and instead gave her own philosophy to it. This often happens when the person offering platitudes has not yet experienced the death of a loved one. Although the death happened to my friend, my dearest sweetest sister, the grief, well that was mine to carry and mine to process and it was so damn painful. In those days the waves of grief that slammed me to the ground were really hard to bear as I didn’t understand that I was on a journey of sorts too. The journey of letting my best friend go and also that there was more to this life beyond the physical.
I had no one to process it with. No one to hold space for me and no one who listened deeply because for them, the type of people I was around at that time, found it way too depressing.
I have often said that western society has a lot to answer for in relation to the natural experience of grief and how it’s processed.
I write this blog today in response to a request from a follower who would like to know more about how can we support those who are dying and also how we support ourselves in the grief of losing them. A big subject! So I am going to just roll with what comes up for me when pondering this subject and what things I know of that I have found helpful.
My mind begins swirling with….
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, on the stages of grief
Death Walkers by David Kowalewski
Tibetan book of the dead. Book and documentary
Zenith Virago (Death Walker) Ted Talk on Disrupting Death, a guide to dying well. Training Death Walkers.
Orphan Wisdom, Stephen Jenkinson,
The reason why this list comes to mind is that from these sources I learned some powerful insights regarding the path of Death Walkers. We all specialise in different areas and they are who I would recommend if you really want to dive into the subject.
My sharing as usual comes from my experience, and if you know my writings, that is where I always start from as my personal experiences have always been my greatest teachers.
As one of strong Celtic blood, have what the old world referred to as ‘The Fey’ this means I can see death.
The first time it appeared really strongly was when I was meeting with a distant relative and saw what seemed like a grey parlour shading her youthful features just above her skin. I had no idea about her health or history and within a short time I was informed that she had passed. So yes, I can often see death coming, but the most potent and sometimes confronting of my abilities is that I often see people at the moment of their death or just before when their spirit disengages from the body.
I saw the moment my best friend died. I saw her in the car, the colour of the car (which was confirmed later) I saw her just before impact, that her spirit had already disconnected and then saw her die. This flashed before my eyes the moment I was told of her death. Like a movie playing before my eyes.
I also see and sense when attending funerals or celebrations of life, the moment the spirit leaves and let’s go fully. It’s very common for the spirit to hang around till the funeral and for the loved ones ( eg: not fully adjusted to the new normal and wanting to let assure their loved ones they are ok even if the loved ones are not receptive).
I felt my father’s spirit leave when they played the last post at his funeral, I saw my friends sons face beam in gold just before being cremated, a dear one came to visit me not long after they took their life yet at that time I had no knowledge that he had done this, I didn’t realise he had come to say goodbye, yet the feeling of his presence was so strong I remember looking outside at night to see if he was there and the next day when his death was confirmed, I knew full well he was there in spirit tipping his hat so to speak.
Does seeing people in spirit who have passed over make it easier? In some ways yes it does but in other ways, no. I am always comforted to know they are ok and not stuck, and have also assisted if they are struggling to ease them into the crossover, but grief is a very human emotion and it cuts deep regardless of how ‘spiritual’ we think we are.
We have all incarnated for this human experience and we will witness the death of people we love and experience our own death walk as we journey through this life.
For those that hold space for the person transitioning towards death, it can be quite stressful especially if they are not in acceptance of the journey that that person is taking. If they lean to want to save, rescue, and control, all seemingly for the benefit of the person dying, it can feel very invasive. Often times they are subconsciously not dealing with the loss that is coming and instead of holding space for the person to let go in the way they wish they are trying to control the narrative for their own sake.
I always suggest the importance of being in step with the person who is on the death walk journey, by following their lead. Yes, you will need to use your intuition because they are not always going to be able to communicate that well. Or call you up and tell you what they want. They will move through many mixed emotions and all of them are valid and should be held space for. It’s also their choice of how they want to die, be that with medical intervention or not. Fear runs riot for many and it’s important that they do not become overwhelmed by others’ fear, pity, advice and need to take over.
Death is a journey. A journey of the spirit in the earth suit, tiring of it and moving towards release. The journey needs to be supported with a gentle, intuitive, light touch. They may need more space than normal as they may be flitting back and forth between the spirit and physical dimensions. They may be more needy and demanding than normal due to their fear of death, of the pain, it’s part of the journey of letting go.
There are people who don’t want to tell others of their death walk because of feeling overwhelmed by other people leaking feelings. If you are a loved one, you need to respect their choice for privacy, however hard you find that. If keeping their confidence is difficult, then seek out a grief counsellor or a grief group to share with.
Remember this journey of death walking is about them and you are there to support and explore what their needs might be to make their journey a gentler one if possible.
For example, if you don’t believe in something that they are choosing to do. Shut up. It’s their body, their choice, and their belief system. Yes, they may be making choices due to fear or something you may not agree with and yes you can help to keep them informed and educate them on options but ultimately it’s up to them. In all cases follow their lead and don’t get too pushy.
Be mindful that they may not respond to you at times as they may not want to talk about it or are in the midst of processing their feelings, but that doesn’t mean you stop caring. You might want to hang out with them and not bring it up, so they can have some time of being free of that ‘Are you ok? How are you?’ look.
Those that are close and walking alongside them on the journey will need a safe person to share with and extra care. They are often the ones passed over as they are the ‘capable’ ones. They too will be moving through a lot of changeable feelings. It’s really important to simply be present and hold space for them in deep listening. Laughter also is a terrific tonic. Yes, laughter and grief often find themselves to be buddies. It’s often a great release. That spark of light in the darkness.
Holding space is simply being fully in body and being fully present with them in total acceptance.
Deep Listening is allowing that person to really share without interruption while being receptive to what they are sharing.
For those who are dying, things like the smell of flowers, the touch of an animal or a child, the taste of a fruit or similar that they had in childhood, being near water, out in nature, gentle soothing music of their choice, reading to them passages from things they love, offering Reiki etc. The senses are still there so if conversation dwindles one of the senses can always be pleased.
For me, the biggest comfort in grief was my connection to spirit. I talk to the dead, I always have.
Like old couples who have been together for years, when one dies the other continues to chat with them. I find I am the same for a good while after they leave their body. I know the veil to be very thin at that time and for me, it tends to come naturally to want to connect with them on the spirit plane.
Others have complained they have not heard from a loved one and in my experience, it’s often because their grief is so deep and all-encompassing that they are blocking the ability to receive the connection.
So for those dying and for those grieving, we need to go gently in our support and follow their lead and at their pace.
Offer ideas, gestures and opportunities without invading their space.
The journey of grief and death deserves to be treated with honour, time and support by people that are fully present and receptive to where they are at and whatever they feel is part of the journey.
Most people aren’t as afraid of death as they are of the suffering leading up to it, this is why we need to honour their choices in how they get there. Grief is also a journey of suffering for those in earth suits and again it should be honoured and respected regardless of your opinion of how it ‘should’ be.
My elder said something many years back that stuck with me, ‘When someone dies they are kept occupied by all the practical things that have to be done, everyone will be offering help, food etc and then people will move on. Be the one that calls 3 months after.’
I hope what I have shared may resonate with some and possibly help others
We are spiritual being dwelling in magnificent earth suits, it’s natural that we all journey through the grieving process and walk the journey beyond this mortal coil. This is a sacred path and needs to be treated with respect be that towards yourself or another on the journey. I personally have found great sustenance and support from spirit and mindfully connected with spirit during these times as I have in spending time in nature, may you find the same.
(c) O. Nightsky 2022