The wooden bin in the Department Store was full of rag dolls, each one the size of a small child. The dolls had smiling faces, woollen hair that could be plaited or teased apart, and limbs that could be easily arranged.
I smiled too as I picked one up for my first granddaughter, who was three years old. As I tucked it under one arm, ready to walk to the checkout, something prompted me to turn back, and in an inspired moment, to pick up a second one.
Sophie loved them, these life-sized companions, who soon became known as pink dolly and green dolly. Having two opened up all kinds of new play, in which the two dolls acted like sisters.
And in a way they were. You see, Sophie’s older sister, my first grandchild, died at six weeks, a year before Sophie was born.
As I watched Sophie’s play times over the years, it felt as if the absent sister had found a way to be present.
Twenty years later, the two dollies were embraced by a new granddaughter, Mira, and six years after that passed over to her new sister.
Mira (11) reads fantasy novels continuously, but when we are together I read to her from the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ books. The last time she came for a sleepover we read about Anne birthing a much-awaited baby daughter in the springtime — and then the sad loss as the baby quickly weakened and died.
Our family knows this loss very well. It lies embedded in our story, like autumn leaves that have tumbled into slow compost.
Mira and I cried as we said goodnight after the story. Her young sister Mika, here for her first sleepover on the adjacent couch, was already drifting off to sleep with a dolly clasped under each arm.
Later in the book L.M. Montgomery writes about the day when Anne is able to smile again and adds ‘But there was something in the smile that had never been in Anne’s smile before and would never be absent again.’
Can children deal with death? I ask this question in my new book (to be published this year) about seasonal celebrations with children and families. The answer is yes, and I give thanks for authors like L.M. Montgomery who write about the subject so tenderly and realistically.
And now, in a world where we have been brought face to face with death through this pandemic, are you able to embrace death as part of life?
As the season turns its face towards the dying phase of the year, and sap settles into the roots of trees, what is a safe way for you to remember your losses?
What do you clasp for comfort?
For many, to be witnessed in your grief is profoundly comforting.
To remember your loved ones who have passed is comforting.
A Ritual for Samhain
You may wish to join with the season by creating a simple ritual of remembrance, for your loved ones on April 30, Samhain, the Celtic night of the dead.
- Write the names of those loved ones, on a piece of card.
- Light a candle and read out the names in a safe circle where you are witnessed by others. Take time to remember them, to smile and to weep.
- Give thanks for those lives, and what they gave given you. Give thanks for being witnessed, and once again at Samhain, being able to feel your grief and know it is part of your smile.
Death is like a mirror in which the true meaning of life is reflected.
— Sogyal Rinpoche
P.S. Here are a couple of things that will give you support and nourishment for any season.
Spirited Living Mentoring Group
I have received inquiries about starting this group once more to support and inspire you with realising your creative dream. There will be space for 6 participants. I am inviting expressions of interest, and you may find out more on my web page