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Why 'Don't Fear the Death Card'?
Where grief, codependency and tarot intersect.
I have launched a tarot business. It’s a very exciting thing. And surprising even to me, but here I am, coming out of the pandemic with a new passion for this very old form of storytelling and self-healing.
I named it Don’t Fear the Death Card.
Let me explain: My biggest fear when I was a kid was losing a parent. I loved mine and have alway been a bit of a clingy nostalgic type. I learned how to love by holding tight and not letting go. I showed people my love through my loyalty. "Til death do us part," could have applied to friendships, which I was also loathe to give up on.
And then my dad got sick. I'd experienced loved ones' dying, including my closest friend who was killed in a car accident when we were in our early 20s. That was my first experience with death leading directly to life: I was pregnant with my son when Troy died, and I have been honest about the fact that I wouldn't have carried on the pregnancy if my friend hadn't died. I couldn't have named "life, death, life" then, but I can now.
But when my dad's terminal cancer diagnosis came a few years ago, I was gutted in a new way. This was what I'd been so scared of since my earliest memories, and it was happening, fast at first and then slowly. I made countless trips to Missouri from Texas to see him and then say goodbye. I'm grateful for those farewells. Each one was more heartrending than the last, but each time, I survived. I even brought my pain back to Austin, where I talked about it in safe places and learned to live with the sadness and discomfort that my dad was on his own journey and I was on my mine.
Losing him was a critical part of my healing from codependency. It's OK to miss people. It's OK to long for them. It's OK to want to hold them, but how I honor myself and my loved ones is by leaving some space in between for my higher power. "The God-shaped space between us," I started saying.
When my dad finally died on that cold January day in 2019, I was relieved. No more hospice. No more uncertainty about his health. No more uncertainty about when I'd join the Dead Parents Society. The vigil I'd been keeping, in some ways, since I was a child, was finally over.
And I was still alive.
In many ways, I was more alive than ever. During my dad's sickness, my tolerance for bullshit decreased. My ability to spot when I was crossing into my own codependent behaviors got stronger. My people-pleasing slowed down. I'd gone through something that I had been terrified to experience and came out with a greater sense of my territory, my terroir.
Later that year, I participated in two-month grief group for people who have lost a parent. I was the youngest one in the room, and through all those tears and piles of Kleenex, the vibrancy within me became clear. By facing my grief and letting these tears flow, I was making that turn from death and back to life again.
Through continued counseling, I was able to take responsibility for my own relationship with death, loss, legacy and attachment.
Now, when I pull the death card, I breathe a sigh of relief. Finally. Whatever I had anticipated losing is finally gone, and the nutrient-enriching composting is already underway. Let the healing happen. Let those flowers grow. Let those tears connect you with the soil, the stars, all the sadness in your ancestral tree.
That's why I named my tarot business Don't Fear the Death Card. It's natural to be wary of the unknown — and I am most certainly treading into unknown land at the moment (see below) — but if I can help others on their own journeys toward and through grief, I'm honoring my own sorrow in a way that feels divinely led.
So, sign up for a session if you’re interested! I’m really enjoying taking the time to hone this craft and carve out this space for this kind of emotional growth.
I need it. We all need it.
So, what else have I been up to lately?
Sending my notice to leave my position at the Statesman (off the record)
It’s true. After 15 years at the Statesman, I will be transitioning to full-time freelancing (and tarot card reading) this summer (shhhhh, that’s Substack subscriber-only knowledge right now ;) ), so your newsletter support means a lot. (Internal screaming! Change is so scary, but I’m ready for this one.)
If you want to get in on the podcast, check out patreon.com/classreunionpodcast.com. Lots of high school pictures coming this summer!
Let’s stay in touch! @broylesa or leave a comment below…