Grieving the Care We Never Received
Hello dear ones,
I hope that you were able to get some rest this weekend, as we moved through another eclipse. I know that my body has needed so much more sleep than usual. If you felt — and are still feeling — extra tender these past few days, know that you’re not alone. An eclipse in Scorpio is going to bring up so much from the depths.
Some reminders/FYIs before we dive in:
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Thank you, as always, for being a part of the CARESCAPES universe! It’s such a deep honour to have you here with me!
Last night, I sat on a video call with my partner and cried. After weeks of feeling miraculously grounded with all of the change ahead of me — a move to the US, starting a MFA, moving in together — I broke down. “I’m so scared,” I told them. “I don’t have a safety net to fall back on. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get the biggest loan I can from my bank. Someone commented on one of my posts that I could get a co-signer, but I don’t have anyone in my family who could or would do that for me. I hate it so much,” I shared between sobs.
Growing up poor, with a single disabled parent, I learnt early on that I’d never have the safety net that so many of my peers did. My father was estranged on and off from his family, and my mother’s family vanished quickly after her death. Perhaps my father never asked for help; perhaps no one offered. Either way, he made it clear that we each had to be self-sufficient. That the only person we could truly count on was ourself.
This belief was hammered in deeper by all of the narratives you internalize when you’re poor: that you have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps; that relying on the paltry offerings of government assistance made you a leech on society; that being poor was your fault (if only you hadn’t bought that new pair of jeans, that pack of cigarettes, that iced coffee….then you’d get out of poverty). Poor shame brings with it the belief that you’re undeserving of care. In a way, blaming yourself helps you feel a sense of control. It’s so much easier to point the finger at yourself than it is to point it at capitalism — if you’re even so lucky to know what the fuck capitalism is.
Shame. If you’ve ever lived in poverty, you know this feeling well. Shame is the feeling that structures the affective life of the poor, where feelings of not being good enough are woven into the everyday fabric of one’s precarious existence.
I felt shame whenever I saw my friends’ parents take them shopping; their parents could pull out credit cards and fill bags with clothes without having to think about it. I felt shame when a pipe burst in my childhood home; we couldn’t afford to fix it and so my boyfriend would help us squeegee the water out of the carpet. I felt shame when my brother recently reminded me that we didn’t have heat in our home one winter; shame for having repressed this memory while he lived with it.
I felt shame in my body in my therapy session last week. I was telling my therapist about my current financial situation. Despite this being the first year of my life where I lived above the poverty line, I found myself needing community support. My bank had just informed me that the $20K I owed in taxes would disqualify me from the line of credit I needed to attend graduate school in the US. I would have to get it paid down to $2.5K ASAP. With about $7000 in the bank, I had to think fast. And so I asked my community for help. Within a few days, I was tax debt free.
This should’ve been cause for celebration. But I told my therapist that all I felt was shame — I should’ve known how much I’d have to pay in taxes — and the feeling that I didn’t deserve anyone’s support. In an interview with Tin House Magazine, Leslie Jamison describes shame as “not just something negative but some kind of arrow, it’s pointing at something.” For Jamison, such a realization felt liberating because it turned shame into “something to follow, like a path—rather than simply something to be paralyzed by, or try to dissolve, or become second-level meta-shamed by.” With the help of my therapist, I realized that those shame narratives were pointing me towards the grief of not having received the care I needed for so much of my life.
Grief, I’ve learnt, is so much more than the loss of what you once had. We also hold so much grief for the things we never had, but should’ve. I never had parents who could take me back to school shopping; I never had someone who could co-sign a loan with me; I never had someone I could turn to the moment that some surprise expense caught me off guard. In my 30s, I realized that I’d built a community of humans who wanted to be my safety net. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for that. And, still, I feel the shame that says “you’re not deserving,” doing everything it can to protect me from grieving the care I never received.
Last night, as I cried and was witnessed by my partner, that grief spilled out of me. This morning, as I write these words, that grief sits heavy within me. I lift my hands off of these keys, place them over my heart, and I whisper, You are deserving. You were always deserving. You are deserving. You were always deserving. And I commit myself to those words like they’re prayer, until all of me believes them.
This ritual is usually behind a paywall on my website, so if you feel like making a small contribution, you can receive a beautiful PDF version of this ritual here, along with deeper reflections on the relationship between grief and trauma.
All that really matters for the ritual is the intention you're setting. If you don't have these ingredients handy, you can easily replace them with others that speak to you.
Rosemary to help cleanse the space for your ritual.
Lavender to help calm our nervous systems.
Black candle for inner strength, resilience, and self-control, and to help delve deeper into the unconscious; or a white candle to celebrate the people we've lost.
Any sort of soothing music that you like to listen to when your nervous system gets activated.
Apache Tear to help release trapped emotions once you’ve truly acknowledged them.
Amethyst, used to soothe the mind and heart.
3 of Swords tarot card. This card tells us that it's time to pull out the swords of shame and blame so that we can remove the first sword, which represents grief.
Any pictures or objects that represent who/what you're grieving.
As a white settler, I've chosen to use herbs like rosemary, thyme, and lavender rather than sage or palo santo, as those are necessary for Indigenous ceremony.
Select a space for your ritual that feels supportive. For me, this is often my bedroom.
Place rosemary in a bowl or dish and light it so that it starts to burn. Walk around the space with the rosemary to clear the energy and set the tone for your ritual.
Light the candle and place it at your altar space along with the 3 of Swords card.
If there's someone in particular that you're grieving (could be a lost loved one, could be a version of yourself that never got to exist, could be strangers you never met before), place a photograph of them or memento that reminds you of them at your altar.
Keep the amethyst and the Apache Tears nearby.
Once you're seated, place your hands in your lap, palms open and facing upward.
Imagine that you're gently cupping something very fragile.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
Now imagine that what you're holding in your hands is your grief. Does it have a colour? Is there an image that comes to mind?
Focus on that colour or image and continue to hold it in your hands for a few minutes.
You may open your eyes to read the following: "My grief is my companion and deserves to be held with the same gentleness that I extend towards others. I can't rush it away. I can choose to sit with it and hold it with care."
Place the amethyst and the Apache Tears in your hands and close your hands around the stones.
Repeat the words two more times.
When you're ready, slowly open your eyes.
You can integrate your ritual by using the lavender. You can burn it, put it in a bath, or place it in a cup of hot water and drink it as tea to help soothe your nervous system.
Additional activity: if you have photographs or images that represent those that you're grieving, you can create a collage with them and place them at your altar.
Content Note: child loss; pregnancy complications
A young Black mother is in need of community support: “I lost my child at 19 weeks last July & this July I’m due with a little girl. My pregnancy so far has been pretty awful. Each time I become pregnant I have hyperemesis gravaridum, which is basically a liver condition that can kill you. I literally have been in and out the hospital for months, fighting to care for two other children. I have been unable to work so my funds are slim to nothing. I need help with bills for June & July. I need to raise $2,000 worth of funds to purchase all items necessary for my newborn so I do not have to stress for the next two months. I am planning on returning to work in September and college as well to resume my studies for my Associate degree.”
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