Feng Shui Advice Soothes Grief

Dear Lynn,
My husband passed away 2 months ago. I am here alone now in the home we shared. If you were living in this house under these circumstances, what changes might you make? — Mary

Dear Mary,
Please accept my condolences for your loss. I will be honored if I can be at all helpful.

Your question is wide open, perhaps even to options and decisions regarding moving, selling, allowing or inviting relatives or a friend to move in, but on these decisions I cannot advise you. For the immediate future I hope to present some ideas for you to employ in your home to soothe and comfort.

The profound shock in your life of your loved one’s passing will, of course, reverberate throughout your home. An amplification may even occur; in a very living way the expression of death throughout your house becomes a new life of sorts, and it allows a new connection with the one you “lost.”

I suggest a gathering place for your emotional devastation that can encompass your consolidating and growing memory of your loved one, which also serves as a tribute to yourself and your gratitude for the relationship and the time it was allowed. This is a boundless territory for expression and investigation of your shared journey and will probably lead you to burrowing into the house on some days. Fortunately, this may allow you to become emotionally sated with your remembrance and letting go and to more easily manage a transition if/when the time comes to move.

Once the public funerals, memorials and ceremonies are complete, as the core emotions of your loved one comes flooding back, suggestions may arise that involve creating an altar of remembrance in your home. Although your entire home may already feel that way now, the set-up of an intentional altar, whether an outdoor living garden or an inside garden, can develop and deepen over time into an ongoing living expression with a life of its own.

Perhaps you’ve heard of family traditions honoring the dead in their homes from other countries. In Mexico it is called the Day of the Dead and occurs at about the same time our Halloween does. The home is thoroughly cleaned and decorated with the intention of inviting those who have passed to return home for a visit. An altar is made with great reverence and joy including food, flowers, white candles, religious icons and photos of the deceased to welcome them back from their journey. Light and strands of sparkling, shimmery decorations, along with many flowers including little pathways of marigolds leading to the house or altar figure significantly in the celebrations. Family, friends and visitors from nearby villages may also pay their respects by showing up to honor the deceased and comfort you. A feast may be prepared to honor the departed and feed the living.

If you feel drawn to making an altar, the best indicator of placement is the location you are most naturally drawn to. However if you want to integrate a feng shui perspective using the bagua, consider these three areas of your home for placement of your altar — the knowledge gua, the love gua and the helpful people gua. To locate these areas in your home, use a bird’s eye view to position the bagua diagram over your house so that the career gua aligns with your front door. The knowledge and helpful people quadrants fall to either side of the front door, and the love quadrant will be at the back of your house to the right.

Knowledge might serve as a platform for your own personal growth and development. In terms of relationships and helpful people, these quadrants have a gender quality. The three open lines in the love trigram are female while the helpful people trigram is male. Are you building an altar for a female or male? Other aspects to consider include where the altar will look best and be easiest to access. You may even want to consider a garden altar outdoors in your yard.

The altar itself will also be a bagua. If desired, you can make decisions about placement of items on the altar according to the bagua aspects and what each represents. Allow beauty to be its supreme governess. Try to include all five elements on your altar with water, wood, fire, earth, metal and their corresponding shapes and colors, and freshen up and tend to them as needed, thus keeping your altar as a living memorial. Some examples include:

Water — a little glass of water, a fountain, a reflective surface such as a mirror; wavy shape; black, deep blue or grey colors

Wood — flowers, plants; columnar shape; blue and green colors

Fire — candles, lighting; triangular, upward moving shape; red spectrum of colors from pink to burgandy

Earth — cloth, materials with which to build the altar; flat shape; brown and earth tones

Metal — crystals, metallic icons, photo frames; curved shape, like a coin or an arch; silver, gold, metallic or very pale pastel colors

To cover all these bases use various combinations of color and shape. Consider plants that change cyclically over the course of a year or glass candle holders with candles of a particular color. A waterfall or fountain could be an indoor or outdoor feature. Honor your tears while moving life’s fluid vitality along. Keep your altar clean and tended to.

The late Lynn Taylor was a senior feng shui practitioner, teaching and consulting in the United States and Mexico for both business and home environments.