We are spirits travelling around in a body. That is a shamanic perspective on what happens when our spirit chooses to leave our body and continue its journey of existence in a different reality. Dying is not difficult; it's knowing where you are going that challenges most of us.

Shamanic Practitioners around the world work with the spirits of the deceased, facilitate the transition from life to death, and act as intermediaries in communication between the living and their beloveds. Many people don’t know this, and don’t consider a Shamanic Practitioner to be someone they might approach with these requests. The Shamanic Practitioner’s path is one of deep spiritual healing, therefore her intention when asked to communicate with a deceased person is to provide information, guidance, or words that will help heal the wounded heart and soul of the bereft. Often, what also transpires is deep healing of the soul of the deceased person. In the case of dying persons, the possibilities for healing for that person and the family are phenomenal. 

 Let me relate one powerful healing story as an example of how a Shamanic Practitioner might work with death, dying and communicating with the spirits of the deceased. I believe these stories are important to share within the boundaries of client confidentiality. This is a story I can tell because all the people involved are now deceased; nonetheless I have changed their names. Yvonne called me about 4 years ago and asked me to help her and her mother by communicating with her stepfather, Donald, who had had a stroke and was in a coma. His prognosis was dismal, but her mother, Susan, was in agony about the decision to end life support.

First I explained that I had to have Donald’s permission to work with him. I had to start there. I did not know anything about Donald, nor did I want to, because, like most Shamanic Practitioners, I like to work without being influenced by outside information. I did not meet Donald in person, as he was in a hospital many hours away and furthermore it wasn’t a necessity for me to be near him physically.

The person I connected with in spirit identified himself as Donald. He was belligerent and his language was quite colorful. It was clear he was angry about being stuck in his body without the ability to communicate with others. He was obsessed about going fishing and wanted to get to his truck. Donald gave his permission for me to work with him and we negotiated that I would facilitate the access to guidance he needed in order to make a decision about staying in a body, or not. He relaxed after some time and expressed a lot of grief about his inability to communicate with his wife. He “handed” me a red, heart-shaped box of chocolates and asked me to give it to her saying she would know what it meant. I called in a few helping spirits to stay with him. One of them was an old man in a rocking chair who was smoking a pipe and was very loving and attentive. I told Donald I would be back the next day and in the meantime that he needed to communicate with his spirit guides and ask for their help.

 When I related all this to the family, they were in awe. Clearly I had connected with Donald. He was a man who used a lot of profanity in his communication!! Yvonne and Susan related that Donald was supposed to be leaving on a fishing trip with his sons that, unfortunately had been planned for two days after he had his stroke. They also said that he was totally obsessed with his truck, his prize possession. Susan broke into tears when I told her about the box of chocolates. She said that Donald had given these to her every year for Valentine’s Day but this past holiday he had forgotten and had felt really bad about that.

As I described the old man in the rocking chair they told me he was definitely Donald’s father who had predeceased him. For many days I worked with Donald’s spirit and helped bridge the gap between him and his family by communicating what he wanted, how he wanted to live out his remaining days and how he wanted to die. There were a lot of specific details about his wishes regarding his property, and other occasionally humorous exchanges like get me out of this @#$#@@ hospital gown and get me my pajamas!

 With his permission, I did a soul retrieval, so that his soul’s essence would be full and vibrant and whole as he left his body. Donald and I also had very serious, spiritual conversations about his love for the natural world. The Donald I connected with was actually a very deep spiritual man, but his family reported to me that this did not sound like him. Donald, as I communicated with him, was deeply connected to animals, birds, trees and the life force energy of the forest. Susan and Yvonne said he was a man of few words, a rough and tumble guy, and this did not sound like the Donald they knew.

Although he loved hunting and fishing, they did not see any evidence of his being deeply, spiritually connected. Despite this non-affirming feedback, I trusted my Spirit Guides and my connection with Donald’s spirit, and continued to relay to his family the information and words he spoke. After about 38 days of working with him, I one day saw his soul being held in the talons of a huge Bald Eagle. I knew his spirit was making its final separation from his body. I told the family he would be gone soon, that he was ready. He died that day, and later on that same day a Bald Eagle began building a nest a few feet from his home and practically within arm’s reach of the bedroom he had shared with his wife for over 35 years.

Yvonne and Susan were in a spiritually transformed state when they called to report this to me. The Bald Eagle stayed around the house for about 3 weeks and then abandoned the nest.Weeks later when Susan was cleaning out Donald’s personal effects she found the beginnings of a book Donald had been writing, unbeknownst to her. It was a body of poetry and writings about his deep love of the natural world, the forest, the birds and wild animals.This was a dimension of Donald he had never shown to anyone. It was proof positive to me, and to his family, that I had connected with Donald’s true nature. It was a powerful gift that he was able to convey this important aspect of himself to his family before he died.

 The healing from this experience affected the whole family. Donald was able to leave his body in peace, and was reunited with the fragmented parts of his soul essence prior to his death. He was able to emerge in a greater place in the spirit realm and know that his family received his important messages. Donald’s family was relieved of the burden of making a decision for him, and ultimately they were able to experience the spiritual dimension of who Donald truly was in the world. And Susan, though skeptical at the outset, became convinced of the existence and the power of soul communication.

 A wildlife photographer took photos of the Bald Eagle while it was around Donald’s home.Susan gifted me with one of these photos as a special thank you, and it hangs today in my healing space. Yvonne and Susan unexpectedly, and separately, died in 2004. How beautiful that Susan had this profound experience of the soul before her own death!

In studying Shamanism we learn that most ancient indigenous cultures had a need to communicate with the spirits of the deceased persons of the community and often this was done through their Shaman. Additionally, in most ancient cultures, the Shaman was actively engaged in a holy exchange with persons who were dying. Overall, the ancient peoples had the same interests and concerns we have today. Is my loved one OK? Has my loved one passed through the entanglements of this earth plane and moved on to a better place? Is there anything my loved one has to say to me, or is it possible for me to send a message to my loved one? Is there anything my loved one needs as he is dying, and how can I effectively communicate on a spiritual level with him?

 Most modern-day Shamanic Practitioners who, similar to the ancient Shamans, have lots of training and initiations in their background, utilize methods and practices that are comfortable for today’s clients coming from any tradition or belief system. Although we study the ways of ancient peoples, it is important for us to translate the knowledge, customs, practices and traditions of the ancient ones into a form that is not intimidating to anyone seeking help or guidance.

Shamans have been doing this sacred work for centuries, and we are blessed to be here in the 21st Century as the bearers of this knowledge and the beneficiaries of their gifts.