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A Mindful Halloween with Ancestors and Deceased Loved Ones

Updated: Jan 31

Halloween! It's all about spooky fun, right? Would you like to make it more meaningful for you personally? This is a good time to reflect on what Halloween was originally about: relationships between the living and the dead. Many cultures still recognize that aspect at this time of year: for example, Day of the Dead in Mexico, when deceased loved ones are celebrated with a party in the cemetery. Here in the U.S., there isn't as much emphasis on honoring deceased loved ones around Halloween.

The Celts, whose Samhain celebration is one origin of our Halloween, believed the veil between the living and the dead is thinner at this time of year. Whether or not you feel that is true, you may find an untapped source of strength in your life by using Halloween-time to check in with your ancestors and deceased loved ones. Here are some suggestions:

If possible, visit the burial place. Your loved ones continue to exist in the Divine realm of Spirit and are unlikely to be hanging around the place of burial. However, honoring them by visiting the burial sets the intention that you recognize them as part of your life. Even ancestors you've never met deserve upkeep. Consider the Chinese tradition of QuinMing, or "Tomb Sweeping Day" where grave maintenance is prioritized once per year.

My parents' grave is far away and I didn't visit for years due to my grief at seeing their names on a headstone, sharing the death date 2005. Right next to Cousin Angela's headstone, which reads Born in Love, Taken in Terror: she died on 9/11. When I did finally go, I found all their names obscured by a green fungus. It feels good to correct such messes and tidy up for deceased loved ones.

Create an altar in your home or garden. Your altar can be any size, simple or elaborate. Use it to display photos, precious objects, perhaps a candle. I use a scented candle and a bell on my altar. Since my entire birth family is dead, I have urns on my altar. When it's time to pray for my loved ones, I ring the bell and light the candle. The sound and scent help my brain quickly settle into "spiritual mode."

Always do a grounding meditation and surround yourself in a protective bubble of God's light before connecting with deceased loved ones. You are not asking them to do anything, just thanking them for being part of your life and acknowledging their contribution (be it positive or negative) to the person you are. If you feel inclined, include them in celebration on special days by leaving food and drink on your altar.

Contemplate your DNA. Is it possible that some of your hangups and habits are not really yours, but energetic remnants in your DNA that can be healed? YES! Consider this article in Scientific American, describing a study in which mice were exposed to a scent while being electrocuted. It wasn't long before the mice showed anxiety upon being exposed to the scent, even without electrocution. Those mice had children and grandchildren. The children and grandchildren, when exposed to the scent, reacted with fear even though they had never experienced electrocution. This result has repeated in experiments with viewing a color rather than a scent. Clearly, mammals can pass down trauma responses through DNA.

The implications of this discovery are vast when taken in context of entire cultures subjugating other cultures, and the scars that remain generations later. Jewish people alive today likely carry traumatic DNA memories from the Holocaust and European pogroms that preceded it. African Americans likely carry traumatic DNA memories from the era of slavery. But for now, let's focus on you. Are you aware of what your ancestors went through? If you aren't, is there a way you can find out more?

Once upon a time I was trading services with an Ancestral Healing therapist. My work in vibrational sound therapy includes ancestral healing, but I hadn't contemplated some branches of my own ancestry. The therapist tuned into my great-grandfather John Allen, who was the father of my beloved Grammy and the husband of my namesake, Grammy's mom Mary McIntyre. To me, John was a stranger: an embarrassing family secret.

In the age of the Titanic he was tasked with bringing my Grammy, age 7, by ship from Ireland to Philadelphia. He and Mary McIntyre had built a life together in Philadelphia while relatives in Ireland raised Grammy after the scandal of her being conceived before a shotgun wedding. Grammy was to be accompanied on this sea voyage with a father she'd never met, by Mary's 18-year-old sister Martha. On the journey, John and Martha had an affair. He soon divorced Mary, married Martha, and moved away forever.

This is especially poignant considering that Mary's mother died in childbirth while bearing little sister Martha. I imagine in Mary's mind, Martha had stolen her mom, and her husband. My Grammy never saw her father again. She and Mary told my Dad that his grandfather was dead. It wasn't until Dad was applying to M.I.T. and needed immigration papers from Grammy, that he discovered his Grandpa was alive. Mary McIntyre burned every photo and letter John Allen had ever sent. Or... so she thought.

When my parents and both grandmothers all died in 2004/2005, I was tasked as the only child with the chore of going through their stuff. In over 15 years of sorting possessions, I never found a photo of John Allen. But then I found this photo, the only extant one of my great-grandparents John Allen and Mary McIntyre, within days of my ancestral healing session. Why? Because 1) There are no coincidences. This is the time I was meant to find it. 2) Ancestors who have been forgotten or removed from the family record due to poor behavior, are especially the ones we need to pay attention to.

At the recommendation of the ancestral healing therapist, I contemplated the photo. How am I like John Allen, the self-centered party boy who (as I learned from the sash he is wearing) was a respected Grandmaster of the Orange Order? How am I like Mary McIntyre, the shy, responsible woman with a wicked sense of humor, caught in a whirlwind romance, scrappy enough to raise my Grammy alone in 1915?

In meditation at my ancestral altar, I offered John Allen forgiveness and gave Mary McIntyre love. That's what ancestral healing is all about. How are you like your ancestors? What shadows do they represent that you might not like about yourself? What trauma did they experience that might be affecting you now? What talents did they pass down that you can tap into now?

Be mindful. If you are in difficulties with family members or loved ones, consider the possibility that ancestral trauma has more to do with it than you realize. Now is the time to break the chain-of-pain and start afresh, with gratitude and forgiveness (within healthy boundaries). None of us are perfect. Let's try to walk each other Home, with God's help.

In closing... please also consider being mindful about Halloween decorations. They say when you are grieving a loss, the holidays are the hardest time... meaning Thanksgiving to New Year. But I contend that it starts at Halloween. Having just witnessed your own child, spouse, parent, or friend lowered into the ground, driving by front yard cemeteries of "funny" headstones with body parts sticking out of graves is a painful reminder that the world doesn't care about your loss.

You can show that you do care. By honoring your ancestors and deceased loved ones and being mindful about decorations. Happy Halloween!

Wishing you sound body, sound mind, sound spirit.

P.S. My upcoming workshop Developing Your Intuition at Sourland Wellness is SOLD OUT. Please contact me here if you'd like to be added to the waiting list for the next session.

Mary McIntyre


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