confronting death as a spiritualist

I've never been super effected when it comes to death. I've frequently needed to force myself to cry at funerals, adopting a "fake it till you feel it" attitude. My stoicism was never seen as a strength of character, however. I distinctly remember 2001. A lot of things happened that year. Aside from the terrorist attacks on New York City, my parents got divorced, and my childhood dog died. Right before Christmas. My sister and I were staying with my mom when my dad called, delivering the bad news. My mom and and sister erupted in tears, and I sat there quietly, feeling like a heartless monster for not being more sad. I was 13.

Looking back at younger me, I can safely say that my resistance to sadness came from two places: 1) an inability to properly acknowledge and process emotions, and 2) a knowing that the death of my loved one didn't mean what everyone seemed to think it meant.

I didn't have a particularly psychic childhood—certainly not the stories of contact with spirits that I hear from my other Spiritualist friends. However, I do remember some specific instances of experiencing "the dead."

After coming home from school (high school?), I discovered that my parents weren't home yet. I could hear someone moving around upstairs and music playing, so I assumed my sister was already home (I don't know how she could have gotten home before I did—it didn't even phase me). I just watched tv and chilled out, until I heard a bus stopping in front of my house. I looked outside and saw my sister getting off the bus and walking across the road. My heart raced. I cautiously crept upstairs (which is really a feat in my dad's house) and headed towards my sister's room. The sounds had all but faded away, but I was still scared. Her door was closed. I opened it. There was no one there. No music played. Nothing was moved. After that day I started my education in house blessing and cleansing (spiritually and energetically, not so much physically).

Twice in college I experienced spirits. In my dorm, very late one night, I could hear someone walking towards me on the linoleum floor. Every time they were about to reach me, the sound would stop, and start over again at the far end of the hall. After a few times, I got up and looked down the hall. Nothing was there, and there were no more sounds. Another time, I saw an apparition in the library. It was a shapeless grey blur, but it moved up a set of stairs near me. I followed it upstairs, only to find an empty room. (I've had many more experiences, but these are certainly the most eventful).
Even though I had never had sustained communication with spirit, and even though it scared me a little, I knew that we don't stop existing when we die. We just change. It makes sense, then, why I have spent so much of my life looking for religious...satisfaction? I felt like there was a void in me that could only be filled with spirituality.

I have begun to deal with my complicated and obscured emotions over the last few years. Seeing a life coach and attending church have both been really helpful there. I also started my journey into reiki this year. I noticed a big shift in my body and mind after my level 2 attunement. I've become significantly more emotional, and find myself close to tears much more often than before. My typical judgmental thoughts are being slowly replaced with empathy. I'm sure that from the outside, the change isn't that noticeable. For me, however, it's really shocking. I feel like such a wildly different person compared to the dude I was a few years ago.

With these changes happening within me, I have had to rethink how I respond to death. Intellectually and conceptually, I understand that death is truly only a change in being. The fourth principle of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches states that, "We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death." For me, anyway, this principle makes it a little harder for me to mourn death. Because I know that, in a very real sense, my friend or loved one is in a much better place.

For me, life beyond this world is fact. I've seen and experienced things that can only be explained with an acceptance of spirituality. I've also always known. It's really hard to explain what I mean in words that make sense. Life beyond death has always been a truth to me in the same way that the existence of sunlight has. It just is. It always has been.

So, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. If you know me personally, you know that my family has suffered a LOT of loss in the past few years. I say suffered because the way this culture deals with death totally sucks and it makes everything blow for everyone (ask me how I feel about calling hours sometime).

Most recently, my uncle passed away. Without going into too much detail, it was a fairly shocking passing, for me, anyway. I hear that he's sick, so I start sending him reiki. Less than four months later I'm at his funeral. While I could go on and on about why this makes me sad (and, really, I could), I'd rather share with you the things I learned.

1) Over the months that my uncle was sick, I sent him reiki. In doing so, I connected with his spirit, the spirit of my cousin (his son) who had passed a few years ago, and my spirit guides. As I channeled energy to him for the highest and best good (energy goes where it is actually needed, not necessarily where you think it's needed), I asked all these spirits if he would be "ok." ALL OF THEM said "yes." Without faltering. At some times, they even seemed annoyed that I was asking because OF COURSE he is going to be ok. Duh. About two weeks before his passing, I started to get the sinking feeling that Spirit was answering a different question than I was asking. I was actually asking if he would remain on earth, in his physical body, with his family. But, to spirit, that wasn't super important. It is most important to know that our loved ones will always be "ok" no matter what—regardless of what the next phase of their life looks like.

2) I cried. I cried a lot. In fact, I was really impressed with the sheer volume of emotion that came out of me. I realized, though, that I wasn't crying for myself. It wasn't that I was moved to tears by the event of my uncle's passing. He is doing totally fine, and while it does make me sad that I couldn't physically say goodbye to him, I know that he's much more able to communicate with me now. I also had some really meaningful encounters with him in my reiki practice, so I didn't feel like I was separated from him. I was grieving, in fact, about the chaos of it all. While I know in my soul that everything happens for a reason, and that all deaths are just doorways, it's so frustrating to not be able to see all the pieces. From my point of view, it seems totally unfair that my family should have had to experience five funerals, a near-death experience, and several high-stress life-changing moments in six years. I can't see the reason in it at all. But, it's important to remember that I'm also very close to these events. Too, close, in fact, to see what's really going on.

3) Tragedy brings people together. My family, while very loving, has never been super close. We all have our own lives in different cities and we make time when we can. Some of us are worse than others (::ahem:: me. I'm bad at it). For me, walking down the line and hugging my grief-stricken relatives was a smack square in my fucking face that THIS is what's important in my life. The people I love are the most important. Always. No exceptions. I've always been the "I'll see them next year" type of person, and that fucking stops now. No more will I let completely useless bullshit (i.e. my retail job) shape my relationship with my family. I CHOOSE to be in control of my life and I CHOOSE to put my family and friends first. Thanks, Universe. I totally got it.

When we experience the physical death of someone we love, it can really suck. It really sucks to know that suddenly that person with whom you've made so many memories won't be there to give you a hug. You won't be able to call him and ask how his day was. She won't make her famous rhubarb pie for your birthday anymore. It can be so, so hard to accept these things. But, it's so important to know that while your loved one has left behind their body on this earth, their spirit lives on. Not only that, but if you talk to them, they will hear you. And, with enough practice, you can hear them, too.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, 
open your heart wide into the body of life. 
For life and death are one, 
even as the river and the sea are one.

- Kahlil Gibran -

Of course you don't die.
Nobody dies.
Death doesn't exist.
You only reach a new level of vision,
a new realm of consciousness,
a new unknown world.

- Henry Miller -

People sleep, 
and when they die, 
they awake.

- Mohammed -


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