On days in which you feel like a widow: no one can please you, you’re fighting your loyalty in favor of self-preservation, pause. Breathe through your nose only. Take a moment to become conscious about what’s taking place. Underneath the cloak, sometimes we’re feeling regret about some thing we didn’t do right or shame about how long it took us to (fill in blank). It’s easy enough to confuse residual shame (and the loitering we tend to do in it) with a part of ourselves which has died, and has gone restless to the grave.
In the Jewish folk tale of the Corpse Bride, a wrongfully murdered woman comes forth from the grave, wearing a tattered gown on a decaying body, wanting the wedding day she never got to have-she died before she got a chance to. The living bridegroom she desires (who stirred her from her slumber in the unmarked resting place by repeating the wedding vows three times and placing the ring on her protruding finger) is spoken for, but she pursues him anyway. This is because unfulfilled dreams and ungrieved pain can be very powerful motivators. In the end, it is the bride who soothes her restless soul. She is the only one who can. She promises to lay her to rest respectably, shows her compassion and empathy for the wedding day she did not get to have, the children she did not get to birth, the partnership she did not get to enjoy. The bride promises to live a full and robust marriage with all that is in her today, and when the corpse feels heard and seen, honored, the spell is released.
November seems to be the unofficial International Grief Month, am I right? An unusual amount of deaths, anniversaries of losses, illnesses, surgeries, diagnoses, auto accidents, and pet emergencies seem to occur. My altar becomes crowded with so many candles and little milagros, owl feathers and little rolled-up paper prayers. It is as though the energy of death is whispering in the last little leaves clinging to the tree branches. But not just in the world around us, no. Also, inside of us.
How do we lay the haunting ghosts to rest, peacefully and respectfully, so that we can tend to the business of living life to the fullest now, and being clean in our relations and clear channels with the Mystery? I think we must award them with medals of honor.
We could start by putting on all black and visiting the graves of the restless dead inside of us.
What younger versions of yourself are crying out to have their stories heard by a more mature and supported you? I hold the vision that for all of the mistakes I’ve made and awful things that have happened to me (my doing or not), this version of me, exactly as I am today, was there in those moments, reaching for my young-woman self’s fingertips. Somehow we got the hope to move forward, right? And so we did. We made it.
And yet, we linger in the past with regrets and shames long after they have gone. Part of healing is also believing that right medicine comes in right time. When it is time to change, we will change. When it is time to make a move, we’ll make a move. Not before then.
It can be heard sometimes in this house, (often in response to the infamous, “What’s the matter?”): Today I am a corpse bride.
Translation: I cannot be pleased by anyone or anything until I have honored what I have not yet, and laid it to rest. I will need some time to do that, and maybe aloneness. There will be crying. There might be black and a lot of candles. There will most definitely be prayers and talking out loud. Eventually, there will be relief, and the version of me you are most comfortable with will return. Until then, I have a memorial to attend.
Image by Morgan Wade