Elder Cottonwood Tree

Halloween is Scary, It’s the Gateway to the Holidays

Hello dear ones,

I love this time of year in the western hemisphere where nature reminds us that death is part of life as the season changes and plants and trees go dormant or die.


But for many of you, this time of year may be especially challenging and even more so if you’re grieving a loved one who has died or you’re dealing with a challenging medical situation.


I hated Halloween 9 years ago when my partner was in the ICU for 45 days fighting for his life. I thought to myself-I can’t celebrate this when my life feels like a horror movie.


So I didn’t celebrate it at all or do what I loved doing at this time of year—creating costumes that were tied to my inner life and decorating my home.


I stopped doing all of that because I had no motivation to do so.


It reminds me of something else that is so hard in grief-you have secondary losses along with your main loss. 

I remember feeling sad that Halloween no longer gave me joy. 


So I share this to let you know that your feelings will shift, someday. They did for me…


This year I’m finally feeling the full-on joy for this time of year-I’ve been scheming up my costume and am getting ready to honor my ancestors by decorating our ancestor wall with new found inspiration.


And I feel a sense of sweet relief, like I’m welcoming back an old friend.


So here’s what helped me during this time, and when I say ‘this time’, I see Halloween as the gateway to the holiday season, which frankly sucks when you’re grieving. So all this will apply to the next few months.


  • First-just don’t participate. Say no to parties and gatherings. And simply say, “No thanks.” You don’t have to elaborate why. I give you full permission to just say no.


  • If you go, have plan B lined up just in case you decide you’re not up for it. 


  • And if you do go, just go through the motions. Sometimes what we really need is to be around others and engage our social nervous system even when we don’t want to. Try it. Become a joy detective and see if it’s there. And if you’re truly miserable, then leave.


I did that often. I’d go and go through the motions hoping to feel that joy that I’d lost. And I would be content to see others for a bit. 


  • Let nature inspire you at this time…the days are shorter, with each day having more and more darkness-it’s an invitation for you to turn inward. Can you set up more time to go inward and just be, meditate?


  • Can you go on long lingering bundled up walks?


  • Set up an altar to honor your deceased loved one and/or all your ancestors. 


  • Do some research about your family lineage. What were their traditions that you’d like to carry forward.


  • Create an altar, it can be simple—a place on your table or a shelf on the wall. Put up their photo, or simply write their name on a beautiful piece of paper, then buy flowers, cook their favorite foods, put out any items that remind you of them, and light a candle.


Have you been told that the veil between this world and the spirit world is thin right now? I have, and that may or may not be true…maybe we feel that way since it’s darker and more barren. 


But get this-the veil is always open for you to connect with your loved one and your ancestors. 


In fact, your ancestors are thrilled to have you connect with them. We have an ancestor wall that we keep up all year long and I offer them coffee every morning.


And if you’re not dealing with death loss, then set up an altar that honors what you have lost. Find items that represent that, or just bring in natural items that could represent that loss. Those items could be a rock, fall colored leaves, twigs, or part of a tree branch. Find things that have already died, don’t pick anything that’s still alive and growing.


I have a lovely flower bouquet of the last white cosmos that were in my garden and it has wilted and is ready to be composted, yet it is still beautiful. It’d be a beautiful representation of non-death losses.


Whatever you do, make it beautiful and intentional. 


I hope that helps. 


And If you need someone to hear you and witness your process, reach out. It’s a hard time of year and I’m here for you. 


More supports coming about grieving during the holidays. 



I’ll leave you with some more ideas and facts about Halloween and Day of the Dead:



  • Halloween is such an odd holiday here in the States—some decorate their porches and front yards with gory and scary scenes of death. Yet we live in a death phobic culture that is often scared to have an open and honest conversation about death itself. What about having a small gathering and just talking honestly about death especially after these past 19 months?


I have a long history and love affair with Halloween and All Souls Day. I have always loved bones and skeletons since I studied in Mexico my Junior year of college. That’s when I learned about how their culture sees death as part of life and they honor and celebrate the dead during Dia de los Muertos.


I recently learned that Day of the Dead was originally celebrated for an entire month! It was said to have originated with the Toltec people of Central Mexico. They celebrated the goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl, for the entire 9th month in their 20 month calendar, so it’d be late July into early August. 


  • Imagine if we celebrated and honored our dead loved ones for a month! What would happen if we had a more fluid and stronger connection to our own ancestors?


I’m so curious about that. And now’s a great time to start.


Whatever you do, remember you have permission to say no. Go slow and with reverence, find beauty daily. And also remember that your joy will return and when it does you can welcome it home with celebration.


Beth, your grief friend.