I was six years old when my dad died. I have a few memories of him. Holding his hand as we walked through the parking lot of the hospital where my brother was born when I was two. Sitting in his lap in our rocking chair as he sang me to sleep or read me stories. I remember him teaching me the Spanish word for table. I remember running to him at the end of each day and latching onto his leg with glee that he was finally home.
Last fall, my dad started making appearances in dream and in waking life in subtle ways at the same time as I began to access grief from his death and other experiences. I began the process of bringing my dad into my morning ritual and prayers. The past two years, with Saturn restructuring my Moon, Sun and Ascendant, I’ve been going through phases that can be characterized as: total submersion in grief. It made sense, therefore, that the little six year old inside of me would be very present.
I never really cried after my dad died. I remember fixating on splinters in my feet and I know that I almost instantly took on the role of mother-and-protector in my family, at least emotionally speaking. I’ve done some work with that inner six year old since then, mostly by spending time in the imaginal realms, spending time with her in my arms, and giving her lots of love.
My personal work as well as the work I do with clients tends to be focused on grief and trauma. I am consistently amazed at just how deep grief goes, unfolding slowly and painfully, often mixing with other complex emotions such as guilt. Trauma is often too much for the psyche to bear.
Last fall, after a workshop during which I purged a bunch of grief, I found myself in bed with a chest cold and fever for three days. The symbolism of a chest cold is not lost on me — the lungs are specifically associated with grief. During that time, I had the opportunity to do some journaling and work with my guides. I made a commitment to working with my dad — whatever that might look like — and asked for some kind of sign from him, despite the fact that I rarely receive direct affirmation.
In any case, right after that session, I went over to lie in the Sun by my window and there was a ladybug between the window and the screen. I thought “Hey! Maybe that’s a sign! Maybe that’s a dad-ladybug!” I laughed at the thought, realizing it was kind of a stretch — why would my dad be represented by a ladybug? But I decided to just go with it.
The next day, I felt myself plunging into grief again, and got totally lost in a massive upwelling that felt like it might not end. I was wailing and barely coherent, and decided to just go with it despite my lack of understanding why — a practice I’ve found infinitely helpful. Purge that grief; clear those lungs! I could sense years of pent up grief unraveling and figured it couldn’t hurt to just get it out.
At some point, I came back to myself with an epiphany. I realized that what I’d been perceiving as a lack of trust in the universe was actually a lack of trust in myself. I believe the universe gives me the “right” opportunities. I believe it is abundant in love and compassion. But I consistently doubt my ability to make good decisions, to take the opportunities I’m graced with and to “do the right thing.”
Then I remembered something we’d been talking about at the training. When trauma occurs, the body, emotions and mind diverge. The body has a response, which is then mediated or repressed by the mind. And oftentimes emotions are taken out of the equation. This really messes with our instinct and intuition.
For example, when a six year old finds out her father is dead, her instinct is probably to freak out — to kick and/or scream and/or wail and/or lose it completely. But my six-year-old self shut all of that down — all of her natural instincts. And then the mind took over. In this process of shutting down, an imprint formed that created a fundamental split that has wounded my ability to understand and therefore trust my own instincts.
Anyway, I received guidance that day that I could help myself get out of the crying jag by going over to the window to write about what was going on internally. I sat down and there were two ladybugs in the windowsill.
And then I remembered — the day my dad died, I was at a picnic with some family friends. It was slightly overcast and we had water fights and played in the creek.
I also remember that we waded through a field of waist-high grass, each blade covered in ladybugs. We were laughing and in awe. I think it can safely be said that that was the last happy moment of my childhood, because I returned home shortly thereafter to learn that my dad was dead.
I sat on my bed, recording the memory, and the whole time there were anywhere from 1-4 ladybugs in between the screen and window and I could see others flying around outside. My heart felt lighter and I was so grateful for that little bit of magical affirmation. I was also grateful to have trusted my guides — my intuition — that told me to change my location, and gave me the chance to receive the affirmation.