My mother died three months ago.
She was in her eighties, but she had been active and healthy. Thankfully, she didn't suffer. One morning she just didn't wake up.
I've studied metaphysics for many years. No matter how much I believe in reincarnation and the survival of the Spirit, it still hurts. I didn't have a chance to say, "Goodbye." I didn't have a chance to tell her how much I loved her. I didn't get to apologize for all the times I had said things that had hurt her. I didn't get the chance to thank her for raising a pretty good daughter — me.
The first week after her death was horrible. I could barely think or eat. I hardly slept. The trip from my home in Arizona back to Chicago, dealing with relatives and friends, was exhausting. It hurt to breathe and I was only taking short, shallow breaths. When I returned to Mesa, I thought I might curl up into a little ball and fade away.
Although I begged him not to, my brother (bless him!) came from his home in St. Louis to visit me. He took a look at my home, which I hadn’t cleaned in two weeks, and yelled at me. "What is this, a frat house? Clean it up!"
At first, I was furious with him. Couldn't he see I was hurting? Didn’t he know that mother was dead? To get him off my back I got out the mop and vacuum cleaner and started to work. As I cleaned, I realized two things. First, that he was making me get on with my life and move ahead. I think mother would have liked me to do that, too. Second, I came to understand that cleaning does something to an environment. It's not just vacuuming and dusting, it quite literally is getting rid of the old and allowing the new in. My house felt cleaner, more open, even larger. I could breath again and took full breaths. Life was beginning to come back to my body.
GUIDANCE FROM MY "FRIENDS"
Although my body was feeling a bit better, my mind and heart still ached. For a long time I had consulted Tarot cards, and I went back to them again. Although they gave me information, they did not provide the peace and healing I so desperately needed. I knew I should seek some aid.
Rather than turn to others when I need something, I usually turn to books. It’s not that going to others is bad, it's just that I frequently don't know what I could possibly say or what they could possibly do. So I went to a bookstore and started looking through the self-help books. I found a bunch of them and put them in a basket. Then I wandered over to the "Body-Mind-Spirit" section for a look. That's when I saw a title that made my mouth drop: Tarot for the Healing Heart. The subtitle said that this book could help you use inner wisdom to heal the body and the mind. Not only was this exactly what I was looking for, but it also used my old friends, the Tarot. I put back the other books and bought this one.
Using the index, I quickly found a section on dealing with death and loss. The title of the section is "Good grief," and I initially felt angry that anyone could call the pain I was suffering "good." The author of the book, Christine Jette, writes: "The causes of sorrow vary and loss takes many forms. All change involves loss. We experience loss not only with the death of a loved one, or a pet, but with events like divorce, ending a significant relationship...or moving to a new town.
"The list of losses is endless. Often, our situations reflect a whole pattern of loss, which has gone on throughout life. Grief is a necessary process that allows us to heal, find new strength, and carry on with our lives in a meaningful way. Good grief moves us forward after any loss." (p.57)
This made great sense to me, and I could now see where she was coming from. I decided to try out what she suggested. I was tired of being in pain.
PREPARING FOR THE READING
Following her directions, I prepared a table to do the reading. First, I laid out a black cloth, to symbolize letting go. On top of that I laid a smaller purple cloth which, according to Jette, "signifies profound healing." (p.58) I prepared some black candles to release negativity, but I placed a white one, for pure intentions, at the top of the altar. Next to the white candle I stood a picture of my mother, the one that was my favorite. According to the book, I burned some heavy vanilla incense, which helps connect to the spirit of death and rebirth. And finally, I used a large piece of amethyst crystal for spiritual healing.
I took a few deep breaths to help me relax and center. Then I recited the invocation suggested in the book: "I ask that the Dark Goddess... bless and protect me during this reading. I ask for wisdom, guidance, and comfort as I deeply mourn my losses. I release the past with love and I am free to live my life. I expect healing and I am thankful for it. This is correct and for the good of all, may it harm none." (p.58-59)
I then mixed the cards and, at random, selected nine of them. These I placed in the order given in the book. It is composed of four horizontal rows of cards, each having two cards except the second which has three, forming this figure
2 3 4
"Positions one and two are related and read together: Position one is a life lesson of grief...Position two is a healing cycle of grief." (p.59) Card one referred to the symptoms of the grief I felt. The card I drew was the Three of Swords. Its main image was a heart with three swords going through it. This was certainly the way I felt. My heart and spirit felt as if they had been sliced to ribbons. I stopped for a few minutes and cried.
The second card was the Hermit. The author writes that it is the solution to the situation, giving instructions on how to "experience the pain of grief in a healing way." (p.59) Well, that card certainly described me. I wanted to be alone. By myself. And this gave me a realization: that for me, being by myself is a way to begin healing. My body and mind had automatically helped my on my path to healing even though I had not realized it.
"Positions three, four, and five are related and should be read together: Position three is neutral information—the facts of your loss." (p.59) The card I drew here was The Tower. Sudden change. Feeling that things were terrible as a result. That certainly described what happened to me.
"Position four is a life lesson in grief — your thoughts about the loss." (p.60) The card I placed in this position was the five of Cups. It showed a dejected man leaving five spilled cups. Indeed, I felt that everything I had of value was now gone. I, like the man in the card, was dejected. But just as cups can be spilled, so, too, can they be upright. I had forgotten all of the great times my mother and I had spent together and all we had shared. My focus since her death had been on what was lost, not what I had gained over the years.
"Position five is the healing cycle of cards 3 and 4." It gives advice of what to do to bring about the healing. The card that showed up here was the four of Wands. It has an illustration of two people making baskets with natural greenery. Jette says that "Wands point to the need for a creative outlet or hobby." (p.60) I immediately started to think about what I could do, creatively, to honor my mother and her memory.
Together, the cards indicated that the pain I had felt was due to my focus on what I had lost rather than looking at all I had been given. I needed to express the positive through something creative.
"Positions six and seven are related and should be read together. Card 6 is a life lesson of grief—emotions and feelings." (p.60) The author suggested searching one's feelings to determine what we were really feeling. The card that showed up was the eight of Cups which has a man turning his back on eight upright cups. Abandonment. I was feeling abandoned and alone. That was absolutely true.
"Position seven is the healing cycle of grief—Withdrawing emotion from the loss: What actions do you need to take to get your life back?" (p. 60) The card here was the Magician. Using all of my abilities to regain control of my life. I realized that I had given control of my life to my grief. Now I needed to take it back.
As I interpreted it, these two cards revealed that the inner secret of my pain was feelings of abandonment. Now I needed to come up with some way to overcome those feelings.
"Positions eight and nine are related and should be read together. Card 8—Support for the healing process." (p.61) Here I chose the three of Cups. It has an image of three women dancing merrily. The comment was clear. Go out. See other people. Get back into the world. Start living again.
"Position nine is a healing cycle of grief—Adjusting to the new environment without the deceased..." (p.62) The last card was The Sun. It showed a child in full joy of just being alive. To me it indicated that I needed to do the same.
Together, the last two cards showed that I needed to get out and enjoy life.
I MOVE TO HEALING AND EMPOWERMENT
Empowerment is the ability to make up your mind to do something and then do it. I decided that it was time for me to stop being a victim of loss and to start taking control of my life. To this end I decided to take the advice of the Tarot.
That night, I went out to a party with friends. We talked about music and gossiped about movie stars. They talked about work and I realized that I was missing not being there with them.
The next morning I went back to my job as a teller at a major bank. I was surprised by the number of people who welcomed me back. They were my friends and they cared about me. At lunch they told me about all of the things that had gone on and generally made me feel like "one of the gang."
That night, I drove away from the city to a beautiful, star-filled, desert sky. I lit a candle and put it in a hurricane glass so it wouldn't be blown out by the breeze. I then read the farewell I had prepared earlier that day.
I miss you. There will never be another like you.
I hope that wherever your spirit is, it watches over me.
Please know that even if I felt mad because of something you did, I still loved you.
How small and irrelevant those things seem now!
Please, mother, forgive me for my anger.
Please know that I could not be as good of a person as I am if not for you.
Although it is time for me to move on, you will always have a place in my heart.
I love you.
Go in peace.
I sat there for some time, watching the stars. Suddenly, a swirling wind arose, extinguishing the candle and sending an icy chill down my spine. That's when I heard it. It was just one word that was almost a whisper:
I cried again, but this time I cried with a smile on my face. I knew my mother was still watching over me, but in a different way.
I still miss my mother, but the pain and paralysis are gone. Every day gets better and better. I just got a raise for doing a good job at work and my friends and I went out to celebrate. I have no doubt that using the method in Tarot for the Healing Heart accelerated my healing process and got me back to normal. Thank you, Christine Jette!
Since that time, I have given copies of Tarot for the Healing Heart (along with a Tarot deck) to friends who were hurting. It shares many ways to use the Tarot to heal the body, mind, and spirit. Several people have used it to ease chronic aches and pains. Others have used it to get over having to move, breaking up with a boyfriend, and being laid off from work.
I wanted to explain the full "Good grief" reading, so if you are mourning the loss of a loved one, you can try it yourself. (choosing your own cards, of course).
One last thing. I have never written anything for publication before. But since the cards said to be creative, I tried to write this article creatively to share what I experienced. It is part of my healing process. Thank you for reading it and being part of my healing.
Editor's note: Although we have had this article on file for some time, we thought it appropriate to wait until much of the world's immediate anguish over the terror attack on September 11, 2001, had subsided. This has left thousands with personal tragedy and pain. It is hoped that some of the concepts in this article will help them through this difficult time and provide some peace of mind in times to come.
All quotes used by permission.
"Claudia Ravenscraft" is the nom de plume of a registered nurse in Mesa, Arizona.