Close your eyes. Think about someone that you love who is not around you right now. Connect with the feelings of love and joy associated with them. Feel the feelings and aliveness of your relationship them within you. Notice the reality of your experience connected to them. Now open your eyes. Is that person with you. No. Is the connection that you feel real? Can you still connect with it and feel it? Yes.
This is part of the same phenomenon that occurs when a person you love dies. They are not physically around you anymore yet the connection is still there, the relationship with them is still there. This is the beginning of an understanding that the relationship that you have with your blood, bones and heart people continue even after they have died. It is just different. Just as the relationship with the person you may have just seen though is not physically near you anymore continues, relationships with your ancestors continue. As a result, it also means that we can continue to address the relationship issues with them that we want to.
Now, just because they are our ancestors does not immediately mean that our relationship with them is healed or healthy. There are plenty of family members that we do not want to invite into the vulnerable, intimate and tender places in our lives. And there are plenty of ancestors that we wouldnt want to be in there either. For many people, there are also traumatic family and cultural histories that lead us to want to avoid connecting with the past(even separate form this countries narrative about letting go of the past to move forward).
However, it is possible to connect with our ancestors and heritage in order to help us in the reality of our lives. Just as a favorite relative just wants whats good for you. Just as you may want a good and simple successful life for a child or grandchild, they want simple success and a good life for you. Traditional cultures actively recognize that these relationships continue and can be accessed in order for us to get the guidance and support from our elders who are now ancestors. It is as important to be able to set limits and boundaries with ones ancestors as you would with those people currently in your life. It is also important to realize that while there may be events or those in your family’s past that bring up too much trauma, to cut your self off from the thousands of others that could be of support is not useful.
Even though there are few explicit practices or theological validations within the Abrahamic traditions to honoring ones ancestors in an ongoing relational manner, many of us practice some form of this already. People have mantles and areas in their homes filled with photos of those that have passed, people light candles on birthdays of those loved ones that have died, there are annual trips to cemeteries, Dia de los muertos and many other ways that people recognize in their hearts and through actions, the connections between those living and those passed. People understand and feel in their hearts that there continues to be connection and relationship.
So how do we do this? How do we deepen this connection with the best parts of our lives and heritage? How do we get support in the present so that we can uncover our gifts, our purpose? How do we access these supports for our own healing in the present? How do we connect to heal past hurts? How do we accept our wholeness and fullness even as there exists in our past hurts and fear.