Shamanic Insights: Healing From The Death of a Childhood Friend

I squeezed my eyes tight, niggled by memory or intuition. Could it really be three months since Anne died? Yes, to the day. These are my Shamanic Insights: Healing From The Death of a Childhood Friend.

I came across these words I’d jotted down and it felt right to start this healing love letter to an old friend here.


I’d started writing this post soon after but the holiday season and mountains of toxic nostalgia took their toll. It’s good to write while emotions are raw and memory razor sharp. It’s equally good to write with the passage of time, short and/or long.



These three months of a long, dreary winter have softened the grief and opened fresh insights. Every time I zoom into an old family photograph to edit, I find something new or nuanced. I find the process incredibly healing. I highly recommend zooming in to see details, expressions perhaps for the first time, at least with fresh eyes.

This also inspired me to dig out more recent photos I’d taken. I used to love cemetery photography and have a huge archive. This one is Mt. Hope in Hartsdale, NY.



It felt like the proverbial yesterday getting the news. It all happened too fast. She messaged me to chat. She’s was a breast cancer survivor. For years. I figured she’d beat the beast, the way she always handled everything. With aplomb, sensibly but the beast was back.

She was probably the most sensible person I knew. We shared wild times in our youth. We both got pregnant in our mid twenties. I opted for an abortion. She married at 5 months and our shared road divided.

Anne stayed happily married until death do us part. She raised two successful children, stayed working at an X-Ray technician for decades, lived in the same comfortable suburban home forever, embraced being a grandmother, assorted pets and a stable life anyone would envy.

I took the road less travelled and my narcissist mother’s voice echoed decades of, why can’t you be more like Anne?

Well, I guess that’s moot now since she and both our parents are in heaven now.

This is the most poignant photo of the two of us taken the summer we met in Piedmont north of Montreal. I’m chasing Anne who running barefoot, topless and free to be wild. It’s was an idyllic summer in the country and the beginning of a lifelong friendship.



“I don’t have much time left.” We’d messaged recently but hadn’t spoken in a long while. I didn’t believe her. She sounded old, ill, as if someone had sucked out her life force with a straw.

“You sound the same.” She said, adding to appreciate the gift of life. What? It’s the kind of thing someone says when they’re dying.

Even when I feel half dead, I sound more alive than most people. I thought we’d have more time. We reminisced. I tried to think of what would bring some measure of comfort. I reminded her of a crazy trip to New York in the late ‘70s wandering around Times Square oblivious to any dangers. I remembered details she’d forgotten about like the cockroaches in our hotel room and she reminded me of details I’d forgotten about like sharing a slice of real New York cheesecake because it was so expensive. Between the two of us, we’d have the full picture.

I was buoyed by the possibility of restoring more lost memories but she saying goodbye.

The famous Buddha quote haunted me.

The trouble is, you think you have time.


This was a Friday and she had an appointment with death on Tuesday. Assisted death is huge in Montreal but I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of choosing to die. She asked if I would check up on her shamanically as a psychopomp. She was worried if she didn’t go naturally, her soul might get stuck.

I’m not an experienced psychopomp but promised to do what I could including asking for help from a shaman elder I know. I ended up doing a remote viewing on Sunday to check up on her but she wasn’t home. It turns out, she was admitted to the hospital that day. I did some ceremony and felt her spirit getting ready to exit fast.

Anne was interested in metaphysical things like me and we discussed sending a message to confirm she’d reached the other side. How about this and what about that color? We were as matter fact as discussing the latest fashions. She ended up decided on a purple blue butterfly. Great, she’s practical as hell and she decides on a butterfly I know I can’t see in nature near me. Spirit or God or whatever you believe in has a divine plan, not to mention a sense of humor.



After a few more minutes, she hung up. She sounded exhausted and probably in pain. Still I thought something would happen and we’d chat again but things took a turn and she died Tuesday afternoon with her beloved husband Tony by her side.

It takes a lot of energy for spirits to manifest phenomena and I didn’t expect anything to happen for weeks or months. I believe in being open and to expect the unexpected.

I’d posted a memorial graphic and post on her Facebook page and reached out to a mutual friend and Tony. The following week, I checked some of the comments and someone I didn’t know, left her a beautiful image of purple blue butterfly. I smiled, that was quick. I messaged the other friend to ask is she knew who that was. She didn’t and when returned to the page, the comment and image was gone.

I kicked myself for not taking a screenshot but grateful for her creative effort, and relieved that she’d reached her destination. The AI generated image above was as close as I could imagine it.

This was a favorite photo, framed for decades, now sepia faded and cracked. We’re standing outside the old wood-burning sauna in the country wearing shower caps as a fashion statement. I was two months older but she was always taller.



Losing Anne, my childhood friend with whom I shared countless memories, has been a profound and disorienting experience. Our bond, woven from the age of five, held ties that transcended mere friendship – it was familial, rooted in shared experiences, and intertwined through our parents’ friendship.


Anne’s mother Maire, father Jeno and my mother Kaija

Anne's dad, my dad and Anne's mom


Our parents met in Montreal when we were five. My Finnish born parents were keen to connect with fellow Finns in their newly adopted Canadian home. Anne’s mother was Finnish and her dad, Hungarian. From day one, they clicked and remained friends until each parent died. We celebrated holidays in every season, birthdays and Christmas.

We especially loved drives to a Finnish enclave in the ski area of Piedmont. My dad was the designated driver since Anne’s parents never learned to drive or own a car. Somehow we all squeezed into the car and off we went on another adventure.


Anne, an only child, became a de facto sister and we enjoyed adventures of all kinds.

That first summer in a Finnish enclave near Mt. Gabriel in the Laurentians north of Montreal was magical. We were free to explore the great outdoors, learned to swim in the Simon River, enjoyed the wood burning sauna, invented games mostly without adult supervision.

As we grew up, we shared to usual touchstones of teenage angst, dating, weddings, and for Anne, babies. When I moved to Toronto, our paths diverged but we remained in touch.



The loss of all our parents compounds the sense of isolation, leaving me feeling adrift, detached from the familiar anchors that once grounded me. It’s as if a part of my foundational support system has vanished, leaving behind an emptiness that’s difficult to articulate.

Transitioning into spring, my heart grapples with mourning my lifelong friend but it’s getting easier. As nature awakens, I find solace in shamanic practices, weaving remembrance and renewal.

Beyond shared moments, Anne’s absence casts a deep shadow. It was time to go deeper into shadow work with Shamanic journeys and ceremony to guide me through the intricate terrain of grief. Knowing everything in nature is connected and we are nature, is comforting.


The woods near me overlooking the Hudson River


In spring’s unfolding, I’m aware that any rituals honoring Anne’s spirit acknowledge nature’s role in healing. It’s a metaphor for the dance between loss and renewal. I’m reminded daily with gratitude that I’m alive no matter how imperfect my body or life is. The first shoots of green are poking their heads in my garden. Their energy is relentless signaling life goes on.

Tips for anyone experiencing loss 

For women in their 50s, 60s and beyond, grappling with loss calls for whatever practices work for you. There is a freedom to choose that comes from the wisdom of aging.

  • Amid blossoming buds, embrace the transformative opportunity for renewal and growth in this season of change literally.
  • Cut branches of flowering trees like pussy willows and watch them bloom indoors. I was given an amaryllis bulb at Christmas and every day I’d peek at it. Nothing was happening and just when I was about to think it was dead, a tiny bit of green popped. The thick green stem has grown almost 2 feet and I’m excited to see it bloom in the next week!
  • Allow yourself the space to mourn, acknowledging that the feelings of being unmoored and alone are natural reactions to such significant departures.
  • You are not alone! As women age, there will be more of us experiencing the death of family members, friends and spouses. Connect with others who share similar experiences. Engaging in support groups or seeking counsel from individuals who understand the intricacies of navigating loss in later stages of life can offer immense comfort and a sense of belonging.
  • Remember, amidst the sea of emotions, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Find activities that bring solace, whether it’s through creative pursuits, exercise, or spending time in nature. I have deep love of trees but this winter I really connected with old, trees for support. Find yours.



  • Cultivate resilience by embracing change and adapting to this new chapter of life, knowing that while the anchors of the past may have shifted, new connections and sources of strength can emerge.

Above all, be gentle with yourself during this period of transition. The loss of lifelong connections can be overwhelming, but through introspection, self-compassion, and seeking support, it’s possible to navigate this challenging journey and rediscover a sense of equilibrium amidst the changes life brings.


For those interested in shamanic practices.

As a shamanic practitioner, if this resonates, I would encourage incorporating spiritual practices to aid in navigating the profound loss of lifelong connections:

1. Honoring Ancestral Spirits: 

Engage in rituals or ceremonies that honor the spirits of your departed loved ones. Create a dedicated altar or sacred space to honor the memories of those who have passed ( even just a candle) to commune with their energies, express gratitude for their presence in your life, and seek guidance from their wisdom in times of need.

2. Connecting with Nature: 

Embrace nature as a source of healing. Spend time outdoors, connecting with the elements, and allowing the natural world to nurture your spirit. Nature often serves as a powerful conduit for healing and finding solace during times of emotional turmoil. Look for signs or messages like sightings of wildlife.

3. Journeying and Meditation: 

Try shamanic journeying or meditation techniques to seek guidance and healing from the spiritual realm. Through altered states of consciousness, connect with your inner wisdom and the spiritual energies that can provide comfort and insight. Remember to journal and date the entries to keep track of your grieving journey progress.

4. Healing Rituals for Release:

Create personal rituals aimed at releasing grief and finding inner peace. This might house cleansing with sound, drumming, burning sage or incense, healing herbal baths, or egg limpia cleansing.

5. Seeking Spiritual Counsel: 

Consider seeking guidance from a trusted spiritual mentor or shamanic practitioner. They can offer tools, ceremonies, or rituals tailored to your specific needs, providing support and insight as you navigate the complexities of loss.

Remember, the spiritual journey through grief is deeply personal. Embrace practices that resonate with your beliefs and emotions, allowing them to serve as guiding lights on the path toward healing and finding renewed connections with the spiritual realm and your inner self.


I will be writing in more detail about various practices I use in future posts but until then, thanks for reading story. If you are experiencing loss, may your grieving journey be gentle and your heart full.