“We live in a culture that perpetually idealizes progress. We’re always moving forward. However, in the process we often abandon history. In a sense, we abandon the dead. But the dead are still with us. Much of the sorrow that’s in our bodies is inherited. There’s this new term, the “transgenerational transmission of trauma.”

We are the current curators of the sorrow. It didn’t necessarily begin in my lifetime, it began generations ago. It could have begun as a consequence of a rupture of connection to a homeland. Maybe our ancestors began to drink, maybe alcoholism became a way of coping.  The wounding of that alcoholism didn’t stop in that person’s lifetime. It affected their children and they maybe became alcoholic or they learned how to cope with alcoholism by basically abandoning their own lives. And that gets passed on generation to generation.

So why is it useful to talk about the ancestors? Well, in part because we want to understand the depth and breadth of what it is we are being asked to face and to deal with.

There’s another part, too. We need their help. They need our help. In the ancient ecologies, it was understood very clearly that the dead are not gone. They are still living in our dreams and in our bodies, in our moods and in our feelings, in the places where we struggle. Asking them to participate in our rituals is part of reestablishing that deep ecology of the sacred.

We’re one of the only cultures that has a nearly nonexistent relationship to the dead. But it’s become a vital part of my personal work, and a meaningful part of the work we do around grief. It’s part of the repair. I also sense that the healing that comes out of the grief work goes in all directions. You know, it’s not just “I feel better;” it seems to somehow mend griefs and losses that were not addressed, including deaths. As Martin Prechtel would say, there are so many unwept ancestors who are crowding the streets and can we finally help them get to a place of ease? Then they might be able to become more active as beneficial ancestors.” - Francis Weller

Unswept Ancestors