When we experience heartbreak, tragedy, uncertainty, and grief, we are touched not only by our own personal, biographical layer of experience. Additionally, we find ourselves in an archetypal situation, a surrounding world where we are not alone.
Sitting next to us is every other human being who has also been shattered by pain, trauma, and sorrow. Depending on our cosmological orientation, perhaps also that of the animals, the earth, the mountains, and the stars who, too, know death.
Is it my pain alone that I am feeling, my personal emotional overwhelm, my trauma, my grief, my uncertainty, my anguish? It’s so much to hold. Or is it that of the ancestors, the stories and feelings and memories and images of those who have come before, or even have yet to come? It is not always easy to tell and the weight of tending to it all can be unbearable at times.
Here, the ancestors are not only those ones related to us genetically (my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s experience) but also our universal ancestors throughout history. These ones, too, have carried these same burdens, have struggled to find meaning in these experiences, and have through their longing come to unearth the wisdom, courage, and guidance buried in the darkness.
We can see or sense these ones in vision, prayer, and ritual, and also in fairy tales, mythology, literature, film, and religion, as well as hidden in secret places that we cannot name in words.
While recognizing our common humanity and history—and the vast relational field that we share with others who have come to know healing, wholeness, and mercy—doesn’t necessarily make the pain go away, it provides a context or container of holding in which we can find the strength, the hope, and the vision to find a way through, to discover a light that has never truly gone out.
To reveal to us that we are connected in ways that are not immediately apparent, but come shining through with the force of love in ways that will astonish us, if we will allow them.
Photo by Enrique Lopez Garre