A few weeks ago one of my previous clients called me to schedule an appointment. They were a beautiful young family with two darling little boys whom I had worked with just before Christmas. My client’s voice was small and hesitating on the phone. When I asked her what was going on she began to cry, telling me that her youngest son had died tragically in May and they were so deeply mired in grief that they hoped I could help shift the energy in their home. Stunned, I told her that of course I would help them, and we met right away.
To lose someone you love is always heartbreaking…To lose a child tragically is soul-numbing and devastating. When I arrived at my client’s house it looked more like a shrine than a home. Pictures of their child plastered the walls in every room. The parents had even placed easels in the backyard which held huge photographs of their son blown up to poster-sized proportions. The level of their grief hung in the air and all over the walls. Even their older child (now three years old) toddled around the house with a picture of his younger brother grasped in his chubby little hand. This family was paralyzed by grief.
There is no road map on how to pass through the darkness of grief, but from a feng shui perspective there are things that we can do to help the healing process begin. I am going to tell you how I helped this family in the hopes that the information will in turn help others.
Usually when someone passes it is instinctive to place mementos of them everywhere. Initially we do this to comfort ourselves as we adjust to our loss. While pictures, personal items, and symbols of the departed bring comfort to us, the problem is that when there is nowhere in the home that does not have these reminders, there is nowhere to get away from the grief, making it almost impossible to begin the healing process.
The first thing I gently do with a grieving person is to ask them where in their home they would like to create a memorial. The memorial should not be one of the main, often-used rooms of the home (living room, family room, kitchen, for example) but rather a place that is a bit more private (a space in a bedroom, a home office, a shelf in a hallway, on top of a sideboard in a dining room, etc.). The reason for this is two-fold 1. It gives the living a space where they can honor their loved one. 2. By creating one place in the home for the memorial, the rest of the home allows space for the healing process to begin.
The parents who lost their child decided that their child’s bedroom (that had not been touched since that horrible day three months before) would be the memorial. We spent the rest of the day (all of us in tears) gently cleaning and reorganizing the room. All the pictures of their son from the rest of the home and in the yard were brought into the room and carefully hung. A shelf was cleared on which to place mementos, and we put a comfortable chair in the corner along with a box of tissues, so if anyone wanted to sit in there and grieve in private they could. At the end of the day I did a space clearing on the entire house and we prayed and said a blessing.
Working with that family was the hardest, saddest day of my feng shui career, but also the most meaningful. I felt honored that they trusted me enough to ask me to come and help them move through their incalculable pain and loss so that the healing could begin. I was moved beyond words to be able to have the blessing of the opportunity to help them, and knew in some small way that I had given them something to ease their pain. I know that over time they will eventually integrate this tragedy into their lives, and bit by bit that room will change as their healing continues. But for now it provides them with a place to grieve while allowing the rest of the home to be a space for healing. Life must go on.
Before I close this article, I want to share a personal story with you. I was very, very close to my mother. She was my best friend and confidant. I was holding her hand when she died and in that moment my world came crashing down around me. I remember coming home from the hospital and parking in my garage after she died. I couldn’t gather the strength to get out of the car and go into my house. I must have sat in my car for an hour, crying uncontrollably. I felt like my umbrella blew away and I felt exposed and vulnerable in the world without my mom. Eventually I went into the house and I remember sitting down and calling her phone number over and over and over again…just so I could hear her voice on her answering machine, maybe even hoping that by some miracle it was all a bad dream and she would pick up the phone and everything would be like it used to be. But she never did, and my life had to go on without her. I was numb with pain, grief, and deep, deep loss.
I created a memorial for my mom on a table in my office. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I carefully placed photos and objects that reminded me of her in this special place. Years later I would do the same with my beloved dog and then later my cat when she passed. Over time the memorial space became less elaborate, as the pain from the loss subsided and became part of who I am. Memetos were put away, all but a few pictures were taken down, and the memorial place slowly become a space of happiness as I remember them with a smile instead of crushing sadness. I know from my own experience how comforting creating a specific place for a memorial of your loved one can be. I also know from my own experience that it is crucial that we create a space where we can allow ourselves to heal without the constant reminder of our loss.
We are all going to experience losing a loved one at some point in our lives. It is that knowledge that makes our time here together on earth more precious. It is my hope that this article is something that will help you or someone you love find a little bit of peace when they lose a loved one. It is an important first step on the path to healing and wholeness. Cherish each moment, don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember to say “I love you” as much as you can. Blessings to all, -Cathleen