By Marian Spadone
We live in a culture that doesn’t like to talk about death. We don’t even like to talk about endings of any kind! We’re steeped in the imperative to ‘stay young’ and we walk around in a culturally-induced trance of denial about the fact that every one of us will someday die. I mean really, nobody gets out alive!
I’m willing to crack a joke or two about death in the interest of opening up dialogue. I want us to feel more at ease with the undeniable, natural fact of death. To poke a little fun at it seems to help poke a few holes in our unexpressed fear of what happens when we or someone we love dies.
I’m Marian Spadone, founder of A Fine Farewell. I’m an artist and teacher helping people who are yearning to find safe and sacred space in which to talk about Death. I make custom burial and cremation shrouds–which are ceremonial wrappings for the body of someone who has died. And I offer information and ceremonial support around grief and loss, home funerals, and natural or “green” burials.
It’s my mission to help people face the Mystery of death.
Here’s a bit more about me–I’m a ceremonial priestess and a long time meditator with a lot of counseling and empathetic listening experience. I founded a Women’s Temple in a community on the east coast and have taught many women the basics, and the art, of creating effective ceremonies to mark important transitions. I have experienced, many times, the surprising and ancient potency of a circle of women. The whole is ALWAYS greater than the sum of its parts and this is never so clear as in women’s ceremonial space. Women are often delighted to find that with some guidance and reminders, we know how to “make sacred space and *BE* in it.” After all, we contain sacred space right within our bodies. It’s a joy for me to guide this kind of remembering .
Now, in my late 50s I find my priestess-self called to be present in the ‘Threshold’ between life and death, helping people to see beyond that veil with a little less fear and little more curiosity. This work is truly a ‘calling’ for me. That’s a sort of old-fashioned word but it says clearly how I feel about the work I do.
Lately I’ve been thinking about people whose grief and loss are really invisible, and therefore unaddressed in our current culture. I am designing a series of workshops for women enduring these invisible losses.
The first is for women who have had an abortion—recently or long ago.
There is so much painful shaming around this subject and so much difficult political rhetoric that it’s hard to sit with the simple truth that an abortion involves a loss. A woman who has made this choice deserves to be supported while she fully feels the sense of loss that it brings. Even in the ‘best’ of circumstances (a legal, clean, friendly clinic with a competent doctor and family support and clarity about her decision), a woman still needs to grieve about this. And it’s important to remember that this ‘best’ scenario is only a recent reality. Many women have had painful illegal abortions, leaving them even more isolated in their loss.
Unexpressed or ‘displaced’ grief tends to ‘leak’ out in many other ways, for instance, making it hard for a woman to feel confident in her sexuality, hard to be honest in a current relationship. It can even stand in the way of a present wish to conceive a child.
So I’ve created this workshop called “The Cradle of Forgiveness.” I’ll be offering it here at the spa on August 27. Details and registration are here: www.afinefarewell.comevents.html
Women who have joined me for this have said it was startlingly healing and potent for them. . .and several have waited a long time for something like this. You may be in your early 20s or you may be in your 60s or older, it’s never too soon or too late to offer yourself this gift of ceremony and healing.
I mentioned other workshops in the new series. I am including women who have lost a child at any phase of a pregnancy or after birth. Miscarriage, stillbirth, complications at birth, or illness resulting in infant or child death. . .all of these are losses that can leave a woman with grief that can only be met and held by a circle of other women.
There are other areas where women might need help to move through grief that is invisible to the culture: women who have had a mastectomy or a hysterectomy, women on the ‘other side’ of menopause, even women undergoing divorce or the end of a relationship. I’ve often thought of the imbalance of having such a strong social ritual for getting married and nothing at all for getting divorced! I’m looking forward to addressing all of these with creative and meaningful ceremonial workshops. If you are particularly interested in one or more of these, I would appreciate hearing from you so I can begin to plan and schedule them.
In the end, I want to say that facing and feeling our grief, though it may seem terrifying and overwhelming, is one of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves. I’m not suggesting this is solitary work, in fact it is most certainly not solitary work. It needs a circle. So I am sending out the call for women who are ready to sit in circle with other women, find their creative power, and use it for healing. In a circle of women, ferocious intensity is fuel for transformation, and grief can be a crashing wave we ride out together, until it ebbs and delivers us safely to the shore.
I look forward to meeting you! ~~Marian
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