On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, I was the guest speaker on Changing Times Changing Worlds Otherworldly, the video podcast presented by the Changing Times Changing World Conference, on the subject of speaking ill of the dead. The video is now posted to YouTube, so if you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec4yr5FS_Vw
I talked a bit about what I had written a couple weeks ago in my article Speak Honestly of the Dead Even if it Means Speaking Ill of Them, expanding on the topic of respecting the grieving process while still being honest about the dead.
If you have already read the article, the podcast discussion went into greater detail about the complications involved in grieving problematic loved ones. It is not only possible, it is normal to have conflicting feelings about toxic or abusive loved ones, to both mourn their loss and feel relief that the abuse and toxic behavior will end. It is very important to speak honestly of the dead in order to achieve healing and social change, but it is also very important to allow those who are grieving the space to do so.
We cannot choose the emotions we feel. They exist whether we want them to or not, and they do not always make sense in a logical way. What we can choose is how we respond to those emotions, validate them, and what actions we take as a result of their existence. Chastising or berating someone for feeling sorrow over a loss, even the loss of someone who hurt them terribly, only creates more trauma by invalidating their very real and complex emotions. Speak honestly, but allow others to feel and express their full range of emotions, even if those emotions make no sense to you, or even to them. Healing from trauma is a very complex and lengthy process, and often involves a lot of cognitive dissonance due to conflicting concerns, fears, and other emotions.
We also meandered into discussion of the afterlife, reincarnation, demonology, what are souls, and healing multi-lifetime traumas and toxic behaviors. I firmly believe in reincarnation, and believe that the things we do in our lives can create trauma and behaviors that follow us between lives, because I have dealt with some of those lingering traumas in this life as a result of not dealing with them in the afterlife. I do hope that those who are problematic will look back on their lives and choose to try and do better in the future, but given how many people choose not to do that while they live, I am disinclined to hold my breath.
If you look at various afterlives as they are perceived by different religions, it is extremely common to find mechanisms by which souls can make amends and learn, or be punished if they are unrepentant. Christianity may have a particularly severe way to view this kind of accountability, but it is not unique to monotheistic religions. From Tartarus of Greek mythology, to Osiris weighing the heart of the newly dead against one of Ma’at’s white feathers, to the complexities of karma and reincarnation in Hinduism, and more, accountability for the dead is very much alive in spiritual thought throughout human history.
And then there is always the fear that if you speak ill of the dead, they might come back to haunt you, but I find it far more likely that heaping praise on the undeserving dead will hurt the living far more than speaking the truth will hurt the dead.