The Air and the Flame: Honoring Grief as Pagans

By Elyse Welles

© 2021 Elyse Welles.  All rights reserved.

As Pagans, witches, and magical practitioners, we acknowledge Death in a familiar way. We find comfort

in this relationship. Death is not ignored or euphemized for us - Death is not met with anger, but pain and sadness? Definitely.

Grief affects all humanity. But, if we engage with Spirit, never will we meet

Death with the rage of disbelief. In times of intense confusion, as we have been in the midst of, it’s hard to keep

grounded and move forward.

Here are seven ways to honor ancestors and deceased loved ones, and ideas for how to gain strength through actualizing grief and acceptance. Death is the Stimulus - We are in control of our reaction to It. “Death is scary” some say; instead let's say, “Death has made me feel fear (or anger, or sorrow)”. We should, instead of shying away, lean into the feelings it brings upon us.

These emotions feel uncontrollable, but it is because they are strong, and it may have been a long time since we’ve felt strong emotion. If we feel sorrow, we should cry. We should sob, we should scream into the sky, “this isn’t fair!” We can demand answers, beg for this to all be dream. Let those emotions flow, unmitigated, and do not apologize.

Death is not an enemy, but it is the only surety in our lives. No thing in life is guaranteed except that it ends. Death is so natural, so simple, and so solid that it should be a source of comfort. Globally, It is seen in our varied traditions, and is celebrated as the Circle of Life, the Wheel of the Year, as Ensō, The Sacred Hoop - we accept endings and welcome beginnings.

Emotion is power; Death brings strength. It moves us into the next tier of our lives, equipping us for the next phase of our time on this plane.

Using Shadow Work in Grief Death is a release: not just for the sufferer now at peace, but for those on this plane of existence who need to release the emotions they have for that person. I don’t mean release as in “let go”, but release as in “set free.” Live freely with your emotions, as long and as often as you need to. Come back to them when anniversaries or memories arise, however frequently.

Feeling pain is not weakness; working through pain is the biggest strength humans are capable of. Confront pain, name those emotions and ask, “why am I angry?” Allow yourself to fully exist in those emotions, feel why they’re there, no matter how messy or uncomfortable they are. The emotions Death leads us to feel are often why we fear death, more than the fact that the person is now lost. The truth is that they are at peace, no matter how they passed, and death is inevitable for us all. That peace is our comfort, whether we believe in an afterlife or reincarnation.