By Shelby Forsythia
Life, death, life. Death, life, death.
If you’ve ever read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s book Women Who Run With the Wolves or Miranda Gray’s Red Moon, you know that the divine feminine experiences life in cycles. Unlike men who experience life linearly, women experience life in cycles. Birth, nurturing, withdrawing, death, rebirth. Over and over again like the rhythm of the moon. There are old stories of female legends going on long journeys, dancing with the devil, being taken by or retreating into darkness, and emerging wiser, stronger, and older, transformed by their travels. Sometimes they come back with gifts. Sometimes they come back with literal or figurative children. Sometimes they take second, third, and fourth journeys, going back because there is always more to learn.
My mom’s death—and my immediate, non-negotiable descent into darkness—was my initiation into the cyclic nature of woman. Despite experiencing the physical cycle of menstruation since a preteen, I was not connected to the rising and falling of the divine feminine. I have lost many things in my life. Home, innocence, friends, identities. But my mom’s death was the first time I was called, willed, and forced to submerge myself into total darkness… and then grow from it. It was the first time I was required to retreat, to introspect, to learn, and to ultimately rise from loss.
I used to walk a linear path. I used to “carry on” when loss occurred. I put my head down and trudged on, thinking I must always be striving for up, up, up, because that’s where goals lived. I had never acknowledged the beauty, the dichotomy, or the gifts presented in experiencing light and darkness.
My mom was a beautiful light of a person. And knowing that she could die struck me in a way that no other death had.
There was an ugliness in it. I fought and fought against the idea that I couldn’t just keep plodding along. But you can’t stop winter from coming. Like it or not, you too will be plunged into total darkness.
Breath held, head down, arms limp, giving way… in you go.
And I swear the first time you go—the first time you’re all-in, suffocating and struggling with the new sensation of being coated in pitch black—the first time is the absolute hardest.
I screamed. I slept. I saw a part of myself I had never witnessed before. A broken soul in need of repair. A voice in need of being heard. A body in a sinkhole shaking her head in disbelief that the road just disappeared.
But grief. That blackness. That pitch dark uncertainty of content and duration—after a while I saw: it is a gift.
In grief, I learned more about myself and my shadows and my dreams than any other experience life has ever granted me. My mom’s death, however sad and tragic, taught me that there is magnificent beauty and depth in the female soul. In my soul. Of being able to experience darkness and see it through to the sunrise. Of being able to panic and shake and scramble my way around. Of being able to take a breath and say, “This is not forever.” Of knowing internally, maternally, intuitively, that I have the capacity and the will and the inevitability to rise.
For the first time in my life, I met the divine feminine. I became the divine feminine. And for the first time, I surrendered.
I learned to be content in the darkness. To let it wash over. To let the energy out (or in) with writing or song or reiki or rest. I know now that no matter how sad I am, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how hopeless I feel, I will rise again. Because that’s the way life is. That’s my power. That’s my birthright as a woman. That’s my cyclic destiny.
We all go through periods of darkness. They can last weeks, months, or years. But there is hope and strength and power in knowing that we will resurface again in the spring of ourselves. That we are connected with a divine feminine that holds us and teaches us and sees us through.
Loss is a mighty force. But then again, so are we.
Shelby Forsythia is an Intuitive Grief Guide who gives people the tools, the space, and the support to come back to life after loss. Schedule your FREE discovery call over at shelbyforsythia.com. Currently offering LIVE classes and distance reiki sessions. Online course coming soon—the three agreements you must make to come back from loss.