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On Grief and Dying




Excerpted from
On Grief and Dying: Understanding the Soul's Journey
By Diane Stein

This is a book for all who grieve, and for all who die. It is also a book for all who live: women and men, widows and widowers, those who have lost a child, a lover, a parent, a grandparent, a pet. It is a book for all who have felt loss, who have lost a home, been robbed of a treasured object, lost a body part or a cherished way of life to illness or disability. It is for those who have lost a friendship or relationship, for those who feel alone on the Earthplane, and for those whose sense of safety has been lost to societal violence and random rage. This is a book for all who have taken birth on this suffering planet in Goddess Earth's current time of travail and change. Know that death and grief, pain, despair, loss, and suffering lead the way to growth, wholeness, and new beginnings.

This is also a book for those who are now dying, and those who will die at some future undetermined time. All souls that take birth, that enter bodies for an incarnation on the Earth Mother, must one day leave those bodies and return to spirit. All who take birth will die. There is no entrance into life without the exit, and the door of soul and spirit swings both ways. There is coming and return, entrance into body from spirit and leaving of the body to return to spirit and the Mother once more. The wheel of life turns from light to darkness and then back again. Both the light and the dark are good, are Goddess, and are one. Who is to say whether life is the light or the darkness on the wheel of change? For those who are now dying, know that there is never a final end.

Life and death are both processes of mystery and transformation, and change is the only certainty that can be known. Incarnated in bodies, we can say at any given moment that we know about life, that life is a process of growth or of age, a passage through brightness or through darkness. There is joy or there is pain, bliss, or despair in the now. But life is never static, it doesn't stay the same for long. It is continually evolving, and for any individual life is a moving wheel. A child's knowledge of life is different from an adult's, and an elder's knowledge is different from that of childhood or maturity. Life is a process of continual and eternal change, evolution and growth, joyful in some moments and painful in others. Life is all things, a oneness of all the opposites.

Death is perhaps the greatest change and the greatest mystery of human life. Spirit contact with those who have gone before describes death as peaceful and desirable, and birth as the ultimate trauma. Death is going home, a returning to who we are in spirit, a returning to the Mother Goddess as our original source. Death is where the suffering of incarnation ends, the transition into a different aspect of life and existence. Many who grieve have made after-death contact with their loved ones, who then attempt to reassure them of their safety, comfort, and continuing.

Yet in this technological society that refuses what cannot be measured on sciences limited instruments, we are told that death is an end. Worse, the institutionalized religions may teach that death is a final punishment, where all sins are repaid in agony. Modern people fear death and fight it with every tool and machine that science can develop. Those who die and those who grieve are given nothing to hope for. But none knows the answer to the ultimate mystery of death until they have experienced it for themselves.

In the Goddess cosmology, all life is a wheel of change, and life does not end at death. Each person is a part of the immanence and original life force of the Mother herself, and the Goddess is also the Earth. The changing of the seasons on the planet mirrors the changes in the individual life, whether person, animal, or plant. In the wheel of life there is a process of growth from birth through maturity and old age. What begins at birth ends at death - but then begins again. With the new beginning the circle becomes a spiral. What is born will die, and what dies will be reborn. Death is not an ending but the seeding of another life, another incarnation, another body, and another process of growth.

This cycle on the planet is the Wheel of the Year, which is also the wheel of all life. The calendar begins with the fallow time between Hallows (October 31) and Winter Solstice (December 22). Hallows, the empty dead time, is the new year's beginning. It is a time both of the Goddess's death and of Her gestation and pregnancy in the Earth's (the Goddess's) womb. At Winter Solstice the Year Child/Goddess is born, the rebirth of light from the time of darkness at the longest night of the year. All is cold and still, and nothing on the Earthplane grows, but life begins from quiet darkness. The child is born from the womb of the Mother, a fragile new life. At Candlemas (February 1) She is an infant at her Mother's breast, growing and being nurtured. At Spring Equinox (March 21) She is a playful, maturing child.

On Beltane (May 1) the daughter reaches menarche, and at Summer Solstice (June 22) Her full sexuality and fertility. It is the time of the Sacred Marriage and of giving birth, She becomes the Mother Herself. With Lammas (August 1) the Goddess completes Her bearing. At Fall Equinox (September 22) Her children as first harvests are grown, and the Goddess/woman reaches menopause. Her life refocuses from nurturing others to nurturing Her own maturity and growth. With the return of Hallows, the Goddess descends to and becomes the realm of death, also the realm of rest, gestation, and regeneration, to prepare for Her rebirth and giving birth again.

In men the cycle is the same. The Year Child is born of the Mother at Winter Solstice, is a child nurtured at Her breast at Candlemas, and a growing boy at Spring Equinox. He attains His rite of passage into manhood at Beltane, perhaps in His first sexual experience with the Beltane Maiden, or in a vision quest to find His adult name. By Summer Solstice the Year Child/Son is fully grown: a husband, father, provider, and protector, and a contributing member of society. At Lammas His children are grown, and at Fall Equinox He makes the life passage from His prime years into aging. With Hallows the Year Child enters the realm of death, rest, healing, and rebirth, to be reborn again of the Mother at Winter Solstice. He is always a child of the Mother, the Son who becomes the Goddess's lover and protector as he matures. The Year Child/God/man is also a part of the immanence of the Earth and the Goddess. All that lives is a part of the Mother and the planet.

On the Earth, the Wheel of the Year is the agriculture yean The time from Hallows to Winter Solstice is traditionally the time when the land is left fallow to rest. Hallows is the last harvest, and any grain that remains in the field after that day is left there. Herd animals are culled at this time, their meat preserved, and breeding animals are kept fed and protected from the cold. With the last harvest of Hallows comes the seed that will be planted in the new year, in the spring to come.



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