Many of you have heard me talk about the Hero’s Journey and how I have used it as a guide on my life path. Knowing the steps of the Hero’s Journey and how it works in my life has helped me stay more conscious and aware of what is happening and also be able to better deal with life’s circumstances and events. The last weeks have been no exception. In fact, I did not get a newsletter to you at the regular time because of a tragedy at our home. I thought about writing a newsletter about another subject and not mentioning the event because it was too difficult to talk about and then I thought, “No, I wouldn’t be in integrity with myself and what I believe about vulnerability and honest communication if I avoid talking about something that is so important to me”. So, I waited and allowed my grief to take its many forms and expressions including finding a way to talk with you about this event, how it has affected me, and how I’ve used the Hero’s Journey to try to deal with it.
In ancient times, a Hero’s Journey was prompted by a serious challenge or a life or death circumstance and the Hero/Heroine went on a “quest” in order to face this challenge. Today, a Hero embarks on a journey because of facing cancer, caring for a loved one stricken with a serious illness, the grief of losing a child or partner, a painful divorce or, perhaps, the loss of a beloved pet. In my case, my Call to Journey (the first step of the Hero’s Journey) came when our dear, 18-year old Sophie Cat was killed on our property, in the middle of the night, by a wild animal (the vet said it was probably a bobcat or coyote). We called her Sophie Cat because we also had a dog named Sophie that we called Sophie Dog (Sophie Dog died only 9 short months ago, as some of you might remember).
This incident hit me with a force that was unknown and unfamiliar to me- it was like being literally punched in the stomach. Maybe it was the violence, maybe it was the suddenness of the loss, maybe it was not being able to prepare for the loss, maybe it was not being able to say goodbye, but I literally felt it in my body as the shock of the loss passed through me. Have you felt that way? This kind of loss truly has a force of its own and there is no denying it. I can only imagine what it must feel like when someone loses a loved one in an accident or a tsunami or 911 or, or, or……. I now have a glimpse into that terrible reality. I do understand that grief is grief: no matter what the circumstances of your loss or who it is you have lost, grief is an inevitable and intense psychological reaction that is unlike anything else you will experience. Having said that, I also recognize that the circumstances of a loss may make the loss more or less difficult to come to terms with.
So, what does the Hero’s Journey have to do with all of this. Well, once again, it’s guiding me. Does it stop the grief? No. Does it lessen the loss? No. But, what it is helping me with is allowing me to be conscious and aware while I am going through the experience. And, that does give me more choice as to how I deal with this loss. I can choose to feel my grief and allow myself to express it without judging myself or trying to hide it. I can choose to not talk with many people as I go through this process (or be more discerning about with whom I talk with). I can choose to distract myself from the grief but be aware when I do. And, I can choose to feel gratitude instead of sadness for my dear companion as I stand before her altar.
We have condensed the 17 stages of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey Model into 5 major steps- The Call to Journey, the Preparation, the Encounter, the Homecoming, and Recounting the Tale. I’ve written, led retreats and am now creating an online course about these steps. And, as I said, I use them every day of my life.
In this situation, I received the Call to Journey (Sophie Cat’s death), I answered the Call (I did not resist the grief) and I clearly entered the Preparation step. What does the Preparation step mean? It means that I am dealing with the “what-if’s” of this tragedy. We made a clear decision to let our cats go outside and not keep them as “inside” cats. Was this the wrong decision? Would I do it again? I’m dealing with the anger and outrage of the situation. Was there anything that we could have done to prevent this from happening? Is there anything we can do to prevent it from happening again? Whose fault was it? Was it anyone’s fault? What can I do to support myself and ask and receive support from others? How can Michael and I share our grief in a healthy way and grow from the experience? What are my values and beliefs and how are these being challenged? How can I make sense of this all? Is that even possible? How can I heal from this and shift my awareness into gratitude for the gift of our beloved companion, Sophie Cat?
These are all Preparation questions. And, I’m filled with gratitude that I am conscious that I am in this step as part of the Hero’s Journey while I’m going through this difficult stage. This awareness helps me………
…………And, now, two weeks later, I am finishing this newsletter. Literally, I had to stop writing because I just wasn’t feeling “right” and I “knew” that something was really amiss. My body ached, I had severe stomach issues, my eyes felt sunken in my body, I couldn’t stop crying, and I just felt that I couldn’t get comfortable in my body- I kept moving it in different positions to try to find “home”. Then, it hit me. I’ve dissociated. I was literally “beside myself” with grief and nobody was home in my body. Have you ever felt that way? I may have felt it before but this time I was really conscious of feeling it.
So, I went to Azenet Macedo, one of the gifted healers at LifePath Center, and looked her in the eyes and said, “please help me call my spirit home”. She did. More than two hours later and after a lot of ceremony, drumming, various musical instruments, brushing my body with leaves from a tree just outside her door, oils, massage, chanting, and singing; I was HOME! I left her healing sanctuary a different person and with my body and soul intact once again. Even better than before.
And, that was the obstacle step on my path of grieving- the Encounter in the Hero’s Journey. In my previous writing, before I stopped, I had written, “I know I will meet obstacles on my path of grieving– the Encounter. But, my awareness, my consciousness will assist me, of that I am confident.” Well, it happened! And, I am entering the Homecoming-a reordering of my queendom. I am creating a life without Sophie Cat’s physical presence and am honoring her life. For this, I am grateful and am grateful that I can share this story with you- the Recounting of the Tale.
I would love to hear from you about your experience of grieving and your own Hero/Heroine journey in the process.
As always, blessings on your journey, Beverly