Grieving with the Tarot

One thing I love about tarot is how versatile it is. It can be so much more than just a drawing random cards. It is truly a tool for growth and healing when we choose to use it as one. One of the ways I like to use my cards is when I am having a hard time emotionally. Because the cards have archetypal energies, we can consciously choose one or two or more to focus on that will help during times of transformation. One such opportunity is when we are dealing with grief. There are many stages to the grieving process and while, from the outside, we can see it as a catalyst for great growth.. from the inside it just HURTS.

I have selected some cards that, for me, relate to grieving and some of the things I personally experience and resonate with. These can be used in meditation, you can carry them around, you can journal with them, ask them to guide you, and set the intention of embodying their lessons and energy.

Firstly we have the Wheel of Fortune. For me, this card is all about the changes of life. It speaks to cycles and also the unexpected turns life can take. We can be walking along one day, doing our normal routine, and the next day everything changes. When I see the Wheel it reminds me of the phrase "this too shall pass". Life is not static nor should it be. It ebbs and flows. The good times don't last forever, and neither do the bad. There is a peace that comes in the acceptance of this.
I also believe that each turn of the wheel is essential for our growth as souls in this human plane of existence. If everything were always the same, how would we learn? How would we appreciate? That being said, the other thing this card calls forth in me is the ability to weather the changes of life. If I am on the outside of the wheel, I am going to feel very unstable as it spins around. I am going to be sick and dizzy. However, if I can find my way to the center, I won't experience as much disturbance. This is a good metaphor for how we cope in times of change. What coping mechanisms do I have in place? How do I become grounded and stable WITHIN, even as the world spins around me? Personally, I journal. I use tarot. I talk and spend time with friends. I rest. I nurture myself. The wheel asks you to find your techniques and use them in times of need.

In grief, the Queen of Cups asks how you can care for yourself. She is the nurturer. She is in touch with her emotions and her inner world. If you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions, you can invoke the queen of cups to help you feel your emotions yet not be consumed by them.

Some ideas for the healing process...

We can be tempted to blame ourselves when we are hurting. This can lead to some very unproductive  self loathing and "beating ourselves up" (5 of wands). Watch out for the tendency to do this. While it is always good to look at the situation and be able to see our part in it (if any), this is usually best to do once the initial grieving is over. At the beginning, all that is called for is TLC. There will be plenty of time to integrate and learn the lessons (which we will go into soon). For now, be your friend, not your enemy.  Therefore some good 4 of swords is called for....

I see the 4 of swords as a time out (in a good way). This person has hung up their swords (which represent thoughts and intellect) and are doing one of the most healing things of all time -- resting. It's okay to check out for a while, especially during fresh trauma. Try to allow your mind to rest and be silent. Naps are an amazing idea. This card can also represent meditation.

Once the initial shock of change is over, the most intense period comes. We have to begin to process the emotions. For this, I have selected the 7 of pentacles and 3 of swords. To me, the 7 of pentacles represents everything we have invested into a situation. Whether it be time, money, hopes, dreams, love, emotions, excitement... we have planted something. When our expectations of that planting are disrupted and leave us empty handed, so to speak, it can be devastating. So this card asks us to see those feelings and expectations, and come to terms with them not blossoming to fruition. This can feel like intense disappointment. Loss. Heartbreak. It's okay to speak the truth of what we feel we have lost. 
This brings us to the 3 of swords, which is such a powerful card! Just looking at it, even someone who knows nothing about tarot can see that it looks like emotional pain. What this card also symbolizes, to me, is allowing the feelings to be really and truly felt. The rain symbolizes the releasing and washing away of hurt. The swords ask you to communicate your feelings, in whatever way feels best. Scream. Cry. Write. Punch a pillow. Throw rocks in the ocean. But don't stuff these feelings down. Let them flow, even though it hurts. You are brave, you can do it.

Once we have spent as much time as we need in the active stages of releasing and grieving, we can then begin to look for the lessons within the situation. I am of the belief that every circumstance in life has the potential to help us grow. There is always a meaning. Maybe the grief is from something we chose. Maybe it is something that chose us. But what better way to honor it- and ourselves- than allowing it to teach us something? One of my favorite quotes is by Eckhart Tolle and he says, "How do you know this is the experience you need? This is the experience you're having."  For some reason, your soul needed this to grow and evolve. This is not meant to sound insensitive or in ANY way discounting of the pain in the situation... which is why we only go here after we have honored our feelings and filled ourselves up with so much love that we even can look at the potential lessons.
For this soul searching, I chose the Hermit, the Moon, the Ace of Swords, and Judgement. The Hermit asks you to really find your own meaning and truth. What did this mean FOR YOU? What do you choose to take from the experience? This is a complete inner journey, and no one else can tell you what that looks like. One thing that we as humans do is try to ease suffering by giving others our own well intentioned truth. But sometimes that can hurt more than help. I would NOT want to hear about "God's plan" when I'm suffering... someone else might, but not me! So it would be up to me to decide what my take away is. This can take time. That's perfectly okay. Don't expect to know and have all the answers right away.
The Moon, to me, also symbolizes an inner journey but also it's about going deep beyond the surface level of things. This is deep emotional diving. Seeing what is hidden. Next,  the Ace of Swords represents the insights we find when we go on these journeys; there is so much wisdom to be had. Judgement comes to mind as well. When we grieve we are stripped bare. Anything extra falls away and we are left with the most naked essence of who we are and what we choose to do/be next. Through the journey of the Hermit, guided by the Moon, we reach Judgement. It allows you to be reborn -- it is the ultimate soul cleansing.

Although healing is such an inward voyage, it is so, so, so, important to realize that you don't have to do it alone. I don't know about you, but when I'm suffering, I tend to put on a brave face and feel the need to "be strong". I have learned so much over the last few years how unnecessary that is! The power of friendship is one of the most healing experiences I have ever had. Now I don't know what I would do without my tribe. If you are used to carrying the burden (10 of wands) all alone, STOP! Let people in. Let them love you and help you. It's okay to ask, and it's okay to be vulnerable and open to receive. Let yourself be loved. 
I chose the 6 of cups and the 6 of pentacles to represent this community because they truly remind me of friends helping each other. The 6 of cups, to me, is the sweet card of nurturing. It is pure care and kindness.  The 6 of pentacles is about financial and practical, earthy help. Let someone take care of you. Let them do dishes and bring you meals and clean up... because one day you will also take care of them.

With the last 3 cards I want to offer you some words of love and encouragement. Although it can be the last thing in our minds when we experience grief, there will come a day when it does not hurt so bad. When we find ourselves smiling more than feeling like crying. The Sun will come out again and we will, again, feel it's warmth and optimism. In some cases it will take days, in some months. Try not to judge the process or how long it's taking... just know that it will come.
The Star, for me, also offers hope. It tells me that I am loved and guided by my own personal guides and my God/Goddess/Creator/Source. It speaks of the depth and fluidity of life, how it is poured into us and sometimes we must also pour out in order to be filled again. It tells me I am perfect just as I am: naked and vulnerable.
And Strength... it all comes down to this. You are strong. You can do this. You can feel this intensity and live. You can be kind to yourself and the process you are going through. You can love it into sweet surrender. If there is any card I hope you take with you it is this. Know that even if you don't feel it, you are it. Just trust, and keep breathing.

{I hope you enjoyed this exploration! What cards do you agree/disagree with? What would you add? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! Also, if you would like a reading with me, please contact me through the contact form at the top of this page! }