Ancestral Connection

On the Equinox this year I spent the morning at the Hall of Gems and Minerals at the museum of natural history, which was renovated since the pandemic. In its previous form it was delightfully vintage, if you never visited, picture a multilevel exhibit (as in, sunken living room), plush black carpeting on the floors and black walls, glass cases with moody lighting and plaques featuring a decidedly 1970s font.

It was also a place a spent a lot of time with my most primary spiritual teacher and elder, who died in 2015. Unfortunately he had become somewhat reclusive in the last year or so of his life, though I did know he was very sick. The last time I talked to him, after a long series of unanswered calls, he said he figured I probably thought he was dead and that it would be easier not to respond because he wasn’t in a “good place.” When he did transition to the next realm I didn’t hear about it for a couple months. In 2017 I returned to this exhibit to connect with him and attempt to grieve more fully. I was able to cry, and try to accept that this person who had been so influential in my life, indeed the first person who actually understood my psychic gifts and gave me some essential if somewhat blunt advice about cultivating strong energetic boundaries, had himself experienced the limit of what he could hold emotionally.

It was harder to accept that after his death I did not find it easy to connect with him. I have connected with him just a couple times since then, and I’ve come to understand that he has some unfinished business. I’ve tried to respect that and only call on him when it’s something urgent. Who is more or less well after this life can sometimes be confusing. Often when folks hear the suggestion of calling in your “well ancestors,” we reflect on who we believed to be well in their life and expect them to appear. We may call to mind those whose histories remain alive in our family mythology, and we are also aware of those we fear encountering.
My experience is that a lot can happen and change after we transition from this life. And who is available in the spirit world is not always who we expect. I’ve encountered more restless ancestors who I never heard of but my body told me were not well (more lessons in boundaries and setting up sacred space!), and others who initially I was nervous about but they came with only love in their hearts. They shared a different story than I had heard before. As many of you therapists reading (and maybe others) know from working with genograms, patterns can often skip generations, in part because our relationships with grandparents and great-grandparents may differ tremendously with our own parents.

Sometimes the wounds our parents hold make it difficult to connect; it is too painful for them to see us have a better relationship with those they felt wounded by. Sometimes those older generations are highly invested in us believing that our own parents only have the best intentions and push us towards compassion or forgiveness where we are not ready, in part because they need to be forgiven themselves. Forgiveness is a tricky thing with families. I don’t endorse this as the most important step in and of itself, I feel it is only healing when it is a natural extension of loving ourselves and relieving ourselves of blame for the painful experiences we had in our families. When we realize it wasn’t really about us, we realize that those who caused us pain had their own paths that lead them there. So it’s really more like acceptance.

Who shows up as our “well” ancestors can point us towards what changes are needed. Many of you know that when my great grandmother (visiting me in spirit) asked me to be more loving to my mother I was pretty annoyed, actually. Haven’t I done enough???

But there was nuance here, the subtlety was that I am now an adult, capable of offering her something hadn’t received and couldn’t offer back. She needed this for her own healing, because her identity as a mother was a vehicle for trying to receive the love she didn’t experience. I could see how our family lineage needed this cycle to be broken. I am the last living person of this family line, and not planning to have children myself, so I am in a unique position to bring that pattern to a close. What if I could offer her something that she desperately needed, even if she would always want more, even though maybe she didn’t “deserve it” from me… because I actually was resourced enough to give it from the overflow of my own self-love? Was this in fact a key component of my own karmic resolutions? 

More on that idea in the three part series on karmic and past life healing, which I wrote on a “solo retreat” in Phoenicia, NY…

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