Ghost hunting and grief don't always go hand-in-hand but many people seeking answers about the afterlife begin with a loss in their lives. Even those not motivated by the loss of a loved one, still wish to know how to handle grief, the natural process of someone passing on to whatever plane he now inhabits.
I know few people with as many experiences with grief as I have had. The youngest on both sides of a large family, I always knew since I was little that I'd be escorting my seniors from this world. In my case, it ended up many died before their time and many were also my friends and peers. Having counted it out one time it was over 2 dozen! The first one that greatly affected me was as a child when my most beloved uncle, Uncle Jerry, died of cancer. I couldn't equate in my young mind just where he had gone. My Sunday school was more about coloring books than real answers. I stared at the sky and wondered if he was peering down at me in some kind of white angelic gown.
Many minor losses came along between then, not well known aunts and uncles, cousins, a few family friends and even a few of my own friends. In fact, I thought I was somehow a black widow in high school when 3 guys I dated died. Okay, okay, none of them died while I was dating them, two were after the breakup and one was before the first date. Three weddings I was an attendant in, one of the married people died young.
The home I grew up in was an actively haunted over 200-year-old home used as a Civil War hospital by the North and the South during the war. I witnessed the remnants of those who lingered or, at least, their images and voices did. It had me wondering about the boundaries of heaven, the memory of a structure and why sometimes I saw and heard them, other times I did not.
Then, at 16, my father died. He was my entire world. I have never known a person like him, so full of life, appreciation for everything, love of everyone, hugging, boisterous, smart, talented and successful. People truly wept and grieved on his passing. My family wasn't good at sharing the bad stuff. We tended to hide in our rooms and remain quiet, thus breeding a lot of depression amongst the members. I felt the grief as an energy in my body and a tightness in my belly. I interpreted as a sign I needed to move and so I took up my athletics to a serious degree, dancing, freestyle rollerskating, tennis and running. I felt better in my body, but my mind was still preoccupied. I realized that without my father, the person who got me motivated to do things, I had lost my instigator. So, I stumbled until I realized that perhaps at 16 it was time for me to instigate things in my life. I went and signed up with a modeling agency, got my portfolio done, entered beauty pageants and got a job. I thought about how proud he would be that I followed my dreams and took on the task he used to perform when he would sign me up for dance classes and show up for every dance recital and every short flag team competition. In essence, his death made me take what he taught me and apply it.
We only get to borrow people. We don't get to keep them.
I always knew that but from life's lessons, I learned that many times. I lost many more friends and relatives and coworkers and then my mother, my sister, my brother, in-laws... It never seemed to end. The routine of grief became easier. Not necessarily easier, but perhaps less dramatic. The reason is that once my father went, I realized that my dad knew that I adored him. I knew that he adored me. We shared many things together before his death. He set an example for me. I took all of that with me when he was gone and I could look back at him and smile and ask myself "what would dad do?" He left knowing he was precious every day that he had been alive through my expression of that love. So, I transferred that to my cold and withdrawn mother and actually got my first "I love you" from her in my entire life. I applied it to my siblings so that they never wondered how I felt. I made memories with them. I sent them cards for no reason. I told them what I loved about them and let them know their influence on me.
I kept a journal with a page for every person in my life that had an influence on me. On one side of the page, I wrote the good things they taught me by example and on the back side of the page I wrote the things they taught me not to do by their example. Such as, one side of the page might say "always be thankful for anything you have." On the other side of the page, it might say "take care of your health, you count too."
The only thing we really leave behind besides a gene pool if we bred is the example we set for someone. My sister's maternal tendencies and my brother's desire for adventure became part of me, part of how I raised my son, part of how he will raise his kids. It's an amazing thing to think that your example is your greatest gift. I can think of these people I lost before their time and smile and laugh because I got to borrow them and make snow forts, play monopoly on rainy days, climb lighthouse stairs and skip rocks on a lake with them beside me, soaking in that moment. The only moment we're assured. I would not be the same if I never had them. If I had to have them a short time and lose them, I would still take that. When you take advantage of every moment with someone, they can go any time and you've had a lifetime of experiences with them. They could have lived to be 100 and there might not have been any new experiences that did anything to change their impression on me.
It's not time, it's content.
On that sappy note, if you notice that I befriend everyone on here and Facebook and take an honest interest in their lives, it's simply because they enrich my experience and I want to enrich theirs. We work as a community and we become more intelligent, complex, compassionate and comforted to know we're not alone. I really love people. I think they are intriguing in every aspect, even the cranky ones and the nasty ones, they have my empathy. We are what we focus on.
So far as grief being an instigator for exploring the paranormal, it's a healthy and normal reaction. Sometimes, in those dark creepy silent places you're sitting and awaiting some activity, you contemplate the situation of a spirit trying to make communication, you wonder why your loved one hasn't given you a sign, you feel your faith weakening. Then, you get a moment of spontaneous activity and you are once again reassured that an effort is being made. It is a self-perpetuating hobby and one that remains open-ended so long as we haven't figured out how to open and maintain communications. Some of the best cancer researchers entered the field because a loved one died of the hideous disease. Some of our best ghost hunters enter the field to find out where their loved one went.
I am reminded of my father's out of body experience when he was dead for 4 minutes. The paramedics told us he had passed and we began to grieve. Four minutes later, using the paddles on his chest, he was brought back. As they wheeled him out, he smiled at me and said, "everyone was there. It was beautiful. All my dead relatives. My mother, my father, my Tante Wahlborg. I was at a fiord. There were colors that don't exist. There were flowers that don't exist. This is not the real world here." They pulled him out into the ambulance and a few days later he passed with a pleased smile upon his face.
I grew up in an active haunted home. I have lost almost an entire family that vowed to haunt that home. I seek out encounters with the dead looking for answers about this next plane we enter when we leave our physical form, but still every time I ghost hunt I am faced with the very un-final act of passing and it makes me smile with reassurance.