By Ava Morgyn
Before my daughter died, I was deeply entrenched in the New Age and self-help community.
I worked at our city’s premier spiritual and metaphysical store. I read tarot cards and taught crystal healing. I helped people feel better about their lives, more empowered, connected, and whole.
I assisted with their spiritual and energetic healing. I fancied myself wise, empathic, intuitive.
I believed in what I was doing.
I believed in the course my life was taking, and in my “higher calling.”
I had a gift to give the world – a way to make a difference. I felt that in a powerfully meaningful way every single day.
And then our daughter died suddenly. Unexpectedly. In her sleep. For no apparent reason.
And the fabric of who I knew myself to be and what I knew to be true unraveled in an instant.
I had no answers. No guiding insights.
No spirit guides that could say anything to make sense of what had just happened.
I had no premonitions.
No gods to make this better.
I had a gaping hole in my chest and in my world that overwhelmed me with pain.
And even the word healing was offensive to me.
The very idea that I could commence on some fated quest to become better as a result of my daughter’s death was sickening.
Everything I had been selling to myself and others was ashes. It amounted to nothing in the face of the shock, trauma, and grief I was experiencing.
My spirit was broken.
I’d lost my faith. And I had no hope of rebuilding it.
One of the tenets I lived by in my former life was approaching everything with intention.
Before you pray—set an intention.
Before you meditate—set an intention.
Before you go on a shamanic journey, engage in energy healing, pick up a crystal—you set an intention.
Before you get dressed in the morning, cook your dinner, lay down to sleep – everything was built around this principle of living with intention. Which sprung from the belief that we can shape our life according to our desires.
We can get what we want if we only ask, visualize, breathe, attract. Everything we experience is something we’ve drawn to ourselves, consciously or subconsciously.
Through intention, we could beat the system.
We could take control. We could manifest.
It made me feel powerful. It made me feel safe. It made me feel happy.
It also made me feel confused.
When things I hadn’t asked for happened—unpleasant things, undesired things—I wore myself out with mental audits trying to determine what subconscious program was running in the background, wreaking havoc on my life.
When things I had asked for didn’t come to pass, I blamed myself, felt failure and shame for not being awake enough, worried about where I was creating mental, emotional, and psychological “blocks.”
Like boogeymen, I imagined these invisible saboteurs were lying in ambush. I wondered which supernatural practice would have the power to root them out of their hiding spots.
Perhaps I had neglected my Feng Shui?
Perhaps it had been too long since my last Reiki session?
Always there was a perfect crystal for exactly my problem if only I could find it among the over 5,000 minerals in existence.
When my daughter died, I bullied myself repeatedly with the notion that I had not only failed in all the obvious ways as a mother but also in all the not so obvious ways.
I had not only failed to see that she was at risk, but I had likely brought this on myself, on all of us, somehow. I had attracted this suffering, manifested this loss.
It was a whole new level of shame I could stew in.
Ironically, at the same time, I no longer believed in the power of intention. I no longer subscribed to the law of attraction.
I was not powerful or in control. I had only fooled myself.
The world was a terrible, random place where anything could happen at any moment, where horrible sufferings were being inflicted every day that I was previously blind to.
And I saw the beliefs I’d held so dear for what they were—comforts in the dark, a false sense of security, a way to steel one’s psyche against the brutal reality of chaos.
It has been over two years now since we lost Evelyn—a sharp and devastating exit none of us were prepared for.
I am still slowly unpicking the falsehood in my mind that I caused her death in both mundane and magical ways, slowly detangling the wad of self-harming thoughts that crept in like a nest of venomous snakes to fill the void she left behind.
I have arrived at a gentler view of the world, a less sinister cosmology, a decidedly more balanced destination. The clarity with which I saw my previous safeguards laid bare has not gone away.
It is radically obvious to me how much I participated in my beliefs and practices before Evelyn died as a way to feel safe by feeling in control. I know now that I was never in control of anything other than my own choices.
And that while I was not as safe—as untouchable—as I believed myself to be, I was also not living with clear and present danger, except the silent thing that was waiting in my daughter’s heart, that I must, in time, learn to forgive myself for not detecting.
But I also realize that the practices and beliefs themselves weren’t necessarily wrong, as much as the way I was approaching them was. We hold both more and less influence in this world than we care to admit.
Intention can be a beautiful way to grapple with that truth, to actively press toward a life fulfilled, rich in meaning and connection and the things that make us uniquely joyful, while at the same time recognizing that we will never be all-powerful or able to account for every variable.
I am learning to live with intention again. To hold it softly in my cupped palms like an offering to myself, to my shattered heart, to the beautiful girl whose presence is all around me, but whose strong body and ringing laughter I still miss acutely.
I see it less as a protective ward against the things I fear, and more as an anchor in a life I never pictured for myself but now must find my way through.
I shape my intentions very differently now.
They are far less vulnerable to our cultural values that have lost their flavor for me.
Instead of the flash of material gain and the outward projection of perfection, I turn inward, find solace in the intention to breathe through another day, be comforted by the presence of a close friend, listen to my aching heart.
I intended to write this article. To give voice and substance and meaning to this journey I am on—a journey of sorrow and senselessness, a journey of love and compassion.
That intention has guided me through a string of days, like a raft on the water, something solid beneath my feet in a rapidly changing landscape. I am so grateful for that much at least.
Intention cannot bring my daughter back to life. It is not high magic. Not wish fulfillment as so many think of it.
But it can orient me to the deepest longings of my soul and enable me to give voice to those silent aspirations, and in some cases movement, action, form.
It can show me how best to minister to my own needs, to hold myself through the storms of doubt and rage and quaking despair. It can lend shape and direction to my life, like a mold I pour myself into when I feel the most lost, the most aimless.
When I am rocking with the waves of my grief, intention can be my rudder.
When I am too deep in the black woods to see my way out, intention can set a smooth stone in my path.
And then another.
And then another.
Through intention, I am recoupling with my soul, finding my way less to a life of impossible standards and more to myself.
And realizing – sometimes with deep regret for my oversight, sometimes with abject forgiveness – that that is what it was there for all along.