~l_ceremony, Orlando

Everybody has a story to share. Someone to grieve. Someone to honour.

Losing a loved one doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. They will always be with you, in spirit, according to aboriginal counsellor Mary Anne Caibaiosai.

That perspective from Caibaiosai was shared at the Honouring Our Ancestors Ceremony hosted at Algonquin on Nov. 24, bringing together a small group of 16 people to feast in honour of their lost loved ones.

The crowd took turns talking in a circle about their loved ones that have passed. Some lost their grandfathers, some lost their brothers and some even lost their kids.

“You’ll see your loved ones in your dreams,” said Caibaiosai. “(They) give you a chance to say your final goodbyes.”

“Your last ‘I love you.’”

The event was hosted by aboriginal counsellors Jackie Tenute and Mary Anne Caibaiosai at the Mamidosewin Aboriginal Centre.

It began with a short smudging, to cleanse the negative energy and a drumming and singing session by a short prayer followed.

Introductions happened next, where the participants sat in a circle and passed an eagle feather along, sharing a story of their loved ones before passing it along to the next person.

Some were more willing to speak than others.

“It’s my first time attending an honouring feast,” said first-year aboriginal studies student Kylie Waghorn. “I like learning more about traditional culture.”

Waghorn, 25, had lost a close friend in September.

“It’s nice to honour the friends and family that have passed on,” she said.

The crowd was given a piece of paper and 20 minutes to write a goodbye letter to their loved ones.

“I lost my grandma a while ago,” said aboriginal events coordinator Phil Commonda. “She was my best friend.”

“We had a very unique relationship together.”

While not everyone dealt with the same circumstance, everyone could relate.

While the atmosphere of the room was somber, visitors couldn’t tell that by the look on the participants’ faces. Everyone had lost someone, but they were staying positive. Or at least trying to.

“It’s okay to cry,” said Tenute. “Tears are medicine within us that carry our emotions.”

“Crying helps us, emotionally. Bottling your pain can harm you, in the long run.”

According to Tenute, when grieving, a dust clouds over us. It clouds our emotions and our judgment. This dust goes into our hearts and hurts us.

“Hearts are so big,” said Caibaiosai. “Crying is all a part of the healing process.”

“You don’t need to act strong. We’ve all been there.”