Indigenous Magic

Indigenous Futures 2024 Part 3 - Stewarding Tears

Gathering in community is really the best action.

Amy Torok
May 30, 2024
37 min read
Chrystal Toop, aka Story Healing Thunderbird

You can still JOIN THE MISSING WITCHES REPARATIONS FUNDRAISER - consider making a donation to Blackbird Medicines via PayPal @

We are all striving for connection and care. As we draw close to the end of the 2024 Missing Witches Reparations Fundraiser, we're joined by BLACKBIRD MEDICINES Indigenous Death Doula Collective founder Chrystal Toop, aka Story Healing Thunderbird. Together we talk about Facilitating Safe Space, Fostering Hope, Grief and Grieving, Feasting, Celebration, and Radicalized Healing.

Chrystal says, "Gathering in community is really the best action."

Listen now:

Chrystal is an Indigenous storyteller, author, and community educator. She is the founder of multiple collectives, a public speaker, and grassroots organizer sought out for her lived expertise. Chrystal shares insights as an generational residential school survivor and registered social services worker.

BLACKBIRD MEDICINES is a plant and land-based spiritual and cultural wellness practice.



Amy: Hi Coven! Just a reminder that May 31st is the last day to join our reparations fundraiser, so if you're inspired by today's guest, consider making a donation to Blackbird Medicines. 

Amy: Every year we at Missing Witches and our coven and our extended witch community spend the month of May raising money for Indigenous support orgs, especially the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal, and gathering together with magical friends, like today, for conversations about Indigenous futures. Here's a quick rundown of how our fundraiser works. 

Amy: One, make a donation of 10 or more to your local Native women's shelter or Indigenous support organization, or donate to the Native women's shelter of Montreal. Two, take a screenshot of your receipt and email it to missingwitches at gmail. com with the subject line reparation. Three, be entered to win fabulous prizes donated by luminaries of the witch community. 

Amy: Or, automatically receive a coupon code for a discount from your next purchase at one of our favourite witchy businesses, Housewitch. As always, Risa and I will be contributing our profits for the month of May to support the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal. In addition, once again, we're asking our community to join us and make a donation reparation. 

Amy: We know that most of you are coming to us from outside Canada, so wherever you are, We encourage you to seek out a local Native women's shelter to support. We understand that some places don't necessarily have First Nations specific orgs, so we'll also accept donations to shelters for vulnerable women and children, sex workers, victims of violence, but we do appreciate a focus on support of Indigenous people. 

Amy: This year, As wars and violence rage across the world, we're opening the fundraiser to support all displaced people. According to the latest UN figures, nearly 300 million people in 72 countries will require humanitarian assistance and protection in 2024 alone. So, if you have a connection to Palestine, please Sudan, Myanmar, Congo, Ukraine. 

Amy: The list tragically goes on and on. We'll count donations to organizations that help affected women and children around the world. We are following the leadership of Indigenous communities in weaving and widening these circles of protection. So here's what you're going to do. Make your donation of ten dollars or more, take a screenshot of your receipt, and email it to missingwitches at gmail dot com with the subject line reparation. 

Amy: Tell us what country you're in, plus the amount of your donation. The amount is important because for every ten dollars you'll get one entry into the raffle for these prizes. So if you donate fifty dollars you'll get five entries, a hundred dollars, ten entries, and so on. The fundraiser runs through the month of May. 

Amy: Prize winners will be chosen at random and announced on June 1st. Here are the list of prize donors. Amazing, amazing witches who have donated their time or products. In addition to being entered in our prize draw, Everyone who makes a donation of 10 or more will receive a discount code for their next purchase at HouseWitch, as a thank you for joining our fundraiser. 

Amy: This year's donors are Amanda Yates Garcia, aka The Oracle Valet, Jinx Monsoon, Renee Sills from Embodied Astrology, Sarah Gottesdiener, aka Gottes, from Moon Studio, Gordon from Rune Soup, Michelle Pajak Reynolds, Kate Ballew, Maria Minnis, aka Feminis, Jessica from Dear Women, Granddaughter Crow, Dina Renaud, Heather Darby DeMarco from Wild Moon Charm School, Holly Robison, Linda McGinnis, North Atlantic Books, Devorah Clea, and Risa and I will also be donating a prize. 

Amy: So go to missingwitches. com slash reparations dash fundraiser dash 2024 for the list of prizes and the witches who have pledged them. One more time, make a donation of 10 or more to your local Native Women's Shelter or Indigenous Support Org or donate to the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal. Take a screenshot of your receipt and email it to missingwitches at gmail. 

Amy: com with the subject line. reparation. Be entered to win fabulous prizes. Again, check our website for the full list of prizes. Automatically receive a coupon code for a discount from HouseWitch. As always, this fundraiser is an experiment. So if you think it's a cool idea, please help us make it successful. 

Amy: By making a small reparation to First Nations women who have been systematically marginalized and disenfranchised, both socially and economically. Let's raise some real money, make real change, and be blown away by what we can do when we work together. If you're inspired by today's guest, consider making a donation to Blackbird Medicines. 

Amy: And with that, I'll pass the mic to Risa to introduce. introduce today's guest. 

Risa: I get so emotional every time I hear you read the list, Ames. Like, uh, I, and I, I'm just so moved to see the people in our community supporting this idea, like a joyful idea of reparations. Like, it feels very empowering to me when things feel really dark, that we can sort of come together with a sense of joy in making things better, in repair, the feeling of care and repair. 

Risa: And I'm just so thrilled to get to sit down again with our friend, one of our favorite returning guests, our coven mate, just such an inspiring thinker when it comes to thinking about how to return to the present. knowledge back into communities and foster care and support within a community. Um, it's the brilliant Crystal Tube of Blackbird Medicines. 

Risa: You're here, you're back. Can you tell us where things are at with Blackbird Medicines? And also, how are you? Hello, 

Chrystal: kwe kwe, bonjour. Oh yeah, so great to be back. Um, Things are flourishing with blackbird medicines. It's, uh, it's a wonderful update to be able to give, um, it's been quite the year as, uh, I think your opening reflected, um, and the, the grief that, uh, people have been dealing with, uh, has kept us very busy. 

Chrystal: And. Um, and I'm feeling very fortunate at the same time that we're in a position to help people in a way that removes those financial barriers. Um, with that being said, uh, it's been a bittersweet thought because you know, that those certain grants are winding down and those things happen with, with, uh, projects that have resources within those systems. 

Chrystal: Um, but I'm, I'm. Happy and excited to be able to say with confidence that this, uh, year is, has really pretty much since. I think the eclipse, maybe. Things have just kicked off in a way that I'm feeling so kind of shored up a little, I don't know, uh, knowing, like, I feel like I've been able to exhale because there's just been such a response, uh, and repeated, We're having repeated requests to return. 

Chrystal: Um, so that makes me think that, you know, we're doing things the right way in community. And, uh, you know, my daughter this year kind of really got a lot more involved and that's been such a gift, um, as she kind of, she jumped off the edge of 18. Um, so it's, it's been a really special time. Um, and, uh, Yeah, I can't really complain. 

Risa: Can you give more of a big picture of what Blackbird Medicines does and about the Indigenous Death Duel training program and what that work's been like, yeah? 

Chrystal: Yeah, so, um, really Blackbird Medicines is my little, my little nugget, my little community practice, uh, and I've been able to make it. Versatile for a lot of different ways to help community in that form and shape. 

Chrystal: Uh, so just, you know, I get a lot of invitations to, uh, do public education through, you know, addressing like classrooms or, um. You know, professional bodies, uh, one of my, um, repeated, uh, I guess, patrons, if you will, uh, is the Anishinaabeski Nation, uh, which serves, you know, many, many, very remote communities, uh, in and around Thunder Bay. 

Chrystal: And, uh, you know, I have friends from this community and there are a lot of historical reasons that grief is, you know, interwoven there. Uh, but also, uh, part of my business has been, uh, supporting, The work that is the Indigenous Death Dual Collective. Um, so from up in Anishinaabe Aski Nation, uh, we have members of the collective coming all through Ontario and, um, you know, that's something that grew out of necessity, uh, in a really, um, Kind of, you know, it started out with just me kind of being nerdy and following my own interests and, you know, trying to support family and friends and community into this juggernaut of, uh, COVID support, um, that really, I think bridged something that, I mean, I, I don't know, you hope to, you know, see a need, fill a need, cover a gap, that kind of thing. 

Chrystal: Um, but tapping into the need that was. Society's call for grief support was it's been wild. Um, and it's just been this thing that keeps growing in momentum, uh, which in some way, you know, in one way, it's like, okay, that's good for a business, but it's like, oh, the world is on fire. Uh, so perspectives, if you will, um, but really, uh, What came out of all of those, those tough times was the work of the, of the collective and, and, uh, you know, getting the resources through those grants to be able to create the Indigenous Death Doula training program and offering it for free for people and, uh. 

Chrystal: Yeah, that that free window is winding down just like the grant, but most importantly have been, uh, we've been able to offer virtual grief support circles and virtual 1 on 1 and when feasible, depending on where those support requests are coming from in person now. So, um. Rebuilding those face to face connections has been really wonderful in this whole kind of transitioning out and into the other. 

Chrystal: Um, so that's been a really big part of the work of the last few years and now it's also grown to include more. Custom grief supports for organizations, um, you know, different crisis and trauma workers, uh, people doing social justice, people working in academia, people working in, you know, every facet really, um, You know, uh, people struggling with the implications of the opioid crisis, um, you know, natural disaster grief and how that's impacting people in their homes and in their families. 

Chrystal: It just, you know, it goes on and on and, uh. So getting able to come up with a workshop that fits that group and what they're asking for, uh, has been really just beautiful and, um, inspirational, um, and then meeting all the cool people, it's like, oh, it just feels sort of lucky. Um, so that's the most, as usual, rambly way to say all the things. 

Chrystal: Um, Yeah. I don't know. No, that's 

Amy: great. We have talked a lot. I mean, as Risa said, you've been on the podcast a few times and we love having you back and we talk mostly about your work, but I listened to an interview that you did on another podcast. Um, you'll forgive me for not shouting them out because it was a while ago. 

Amy: Um, and I learned so much about. your personal history. As I say, normally we talk about your work. Um, can you share a bit about like your personal story that brought you to this place of creating Blackbird Medicine? 

Chrystal: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so, uh, I have kind of, you know, trauma warning little exclamation marks and yellow triangles, please. 

Chrystal: Uh, there, uh, you know, as an Indigenous woman and as a woman, You know, in the world and whatnot. There's definitely been a lot of ways that I've experienced some stuff You know, and I've expressed a lot of those stories in written form There is a book in in a space of becoming Especially with thanks to you lovely To getting me all connected and whatnot. 

Chrystal: Uh, but, um, you know, uh, one of my very first stories that I remembered, uh, gathering, I was six years old and, uh, there was a crank call in my, uh, against my father, uh, there was an accusation that my, my dad had, uh, killed. My is myself, my sister, my mother and himself. And, uh, so this kind of real tactical style of response from the police came on to our little street in Ottawa and, uh, I was woken up by, you know, masked gunned. 

Chrystal: Police and tactical gear from sleep. Uh, so that that happened and, you know, I, it was really chaotic and crazy story. And for a long time, it didn't, it didn't really seem like it was just a thing that happened. We didn't really talk about it. Um, and I remember overhearing my mom. Talking about it and it's like, wait, that really happened. 

Chrystal: Uh, and I, I figured out and put together later that was actually, you know, an act of racism against my mother, an Indigenous woman and visibly Indigenous, because, you know, that's another part of my story is positioning my, my white privilege and, you know, all the gloriousness of how I burn and whatnot. Um, but, Uh, you know, there's a lot of ways that I was impacted, um, by Indigenous rights that I didn't understand at the time, like, like, you know, any other child would be oblivious to. 

Chrystal: So it started very young for me, uh, and growing up and being a youth and not totally understanding, like, why I jumped startled at police. Things like that, but I had a really high conflict relationship with my parents, um, you know, I think they had their own challenges. Absolutely. Um, you know, mental illness, undiagnosed learning problems. 

Chrystal: Um, yeah, you know, I can anthropologize all that stuff forever. Um, but it, uh, you know, it, it All of these different things played out in my life, and it looked like homelessness. It looked like, um, you know, getting into fights with my parents and getting kicked out and going to the other parent and back and back and back and it was, you know, just fighting with everybody and, um, and, you know, You know, now in my adult years, I don't, I, I'm starting to process what some of those fights were about and why I was so combative and, and, you know, they were all really good reasons. 

Chrystal: I was not a crazy, out of control person. Um, so. Um, that took years, though, to get to that place. And, um, yeah, just, I received, uh, my traditional name, uh, this last year in Thunder Bay. Uh, my grandfather died last year, and it was a really difficult time because Uh, especially to be in Thunder Bay because it was the first time I was in Thunder Bay where he wasn't alive. 

Chrystal: And I got my traditional name, uh, to honor all of that. And it was, you know, traditional names are given by an elder, usually a grandparent. Uh, and that's not something that I got in my family growing up. Uh, and this elder gifted me my name and it, it's, uh, Debajnu Benisi. And that means story healing Thunderbird. 

Chrystal: And, uh, It really is that I carry all these stories and being able to share them does heal. So, even though there's a trauma warning at the beginning, uh, I do understand that being able to share about being homeless, about getting kicked out in Thunder Bay right before Christmas, um, and panicking because, you know, I was too scared to call my grandparents. 

Chrystal: So, I was couch surfing and, you know, there's, uh, there's, you know, people. Like, I'd been working, like, I was a really, I paid for my way from a young age. I was working to support myself because my parents were so low income and that wasn't, uh, you know, when they split up, my mother was on assistance for a long time. 

Chrystal: Um, but really, it was because there was so much unaddressed, um, issues. Different types of mental illness and disability and I realized now I told someone before, uh, trying to bridge these issues around, you know, like, oh, indigenous people, this or that. And I get a lot of it or I hear a lot of it. Um, you know, when you're white coated people at their guard down and. 

Chrystal: You know, I tried to explain to someone once it's like, well, you know how everyone has that family member in the tree. Uh, that's maybe had addictions issues or mental health issues. And it's just like a lot of challenges to their existence. Basically, in my family, there's a 1 or 2 of us who don't have all of those challenges. 

Chrystal: And even then we probably do. They're just hidden. Uh, so it's, um, there's been so many branches off of that. Aspect. Um, I am the oldest of four, so I was really parentified and raised up, uh, and spent a lot of time providing care and, uh, there was a shift where, um, I became care for my parents and, and then I became accountable even as an adult to everyone being okay. 

Chrystal: Uh, and it, it, you know, when you're trying to survive and, you know. Make Your Way. Uh, I remember feeling really hopeless as a teen when I realized that the kids around me in my rich, rural, kind of white, mostly community, the kids around me all had college funds, had plans, you know, had trips in their life. 

Chrystal: You know, I was trying to have more than two pairs of pants. And, you know, um, You know, uh, so realizing that those things weren't in place for me, it really limited my hope for the future, and I was talking with my daughter about some of these things because she's at this age, and there is the same challenges to our youth now, where they're trying to launch in this world, but it's such a hopeless prospect, even if you have vacations or, you know, College funds. 

Chrystal: It's still really, really hard, uh, to a different degree where it's that kind of second part is like the other shoe has already dropped where the, you know, like back to the earth's on fire thing. So it's difficult. And I've, I remember being in that position and feeling hopeless and making choices that reflected how I felt about my, my, Likelihood of success in the world. 

Chrystal: So I was criminalized. I was arrested with my boyfriend stealing a car. Um, you know, I did, uh, maintain relationships, uh, in street life for years, um, because that was the family. I trusted. That was the family that cared if I ate. That was the family that. You know, stressed with me if I wasn't gonna have enough to pay the hydro bill or what have you, but I also housed a lot of these people, uh, maybe when I shouldn't have. 

Chrystal: But again, how, how do you break connections with people when they worry about your kids as much as you do, and there's safety there. Um, so even though that was a big part of my path, uh, it took years to To learn about healthy relationships and what I wanted for my children, as I got older and started to do all that healing work, the levels of things that I needed to be different, to be better for, for my own standards, uh, just was, it just got so radicalized. 

Chrystal: And, um, and now I just get to enjoy how awesome everyone thinks my adult children are, so couldn't have been that bad. 

Risa: Okay, so you did it. You, you fostered hope in the next generation. Can you tell us about how that part works, you know? And I mean from a big scale too, I don't just mean parenting, like, we are coming from a place of so much fear and grief and trauma. 

Risa: all of us, but especially, you know, the global majority, how do we, how do we even imagine a living future? And, and how do we chart a way there? You don't have to speak for everybody, but just what, what comes to mind, I guess. 

Chrystal: I think we just have to keep striving for the connection and the care. That's the only thing that, you know, I've put a lot of time into this. 

Chrystal: You can say I've taken a focus group effect, um, our approach rather. And I, that's what I think it is. I think we just have to keep caring for each other, centering the need for care. If only because one day you'll need that care. Fine. That's better than nothing. And. The connections, 

Chrystal: there's just so much craziness I feel that could be cut out if our connections were healthier and stronger. 

Chrystal: When I think about the youth and what exactly that grief is about and how things are projected to turn, I want to give them space and I want to pass the mic and I want them to be the ones who, uh, are being heard. As I feel like as a youth, I use my voice a lot, even though I didn't always trust it. Uh, but when it comes to our youth today, they, they can share their voice in the palm of their hand. 

Chrystal: Whereas like, I had to like, wait for a crowd to gather a parliament or something. Um, insert your local governmental building. Um, but so there's that. And also the noise of everything. Uh, I find that. You know, my daughter and other youth that I get to interact with, they teach me so much, uh, in ways that I rarely expect or am prepared for. 

Chrystal: And I love that. And I think that's something that that lack of, I mean, I don't know about y'all, but as a youth, I did not feel heard. And, you know, from a young age, I remember being really. interested in my rights as a kid, why, you know, I have the right for people to care what I think. And that's something growing up that it didn't really feel reflected in society, unless you were like Fred Kilberger or something. 

Chrystal: Um, and had a CBC special, I don't, uh, but with, with the youth today, I think we just have to listen to them and make that the norm. 

Amy: You talked about when, um, When the police attacked and raided your home and it struck me that you said, we didn't talk about it. And I guess like my question to that, other than like, uh, is, um, storytelling and sharing these stories and listening is, is so much a part of how we make these connections. 

Amy: Right. And how do we, how do we lose the shame associated with. with talking about, you know, ways that we've been hurt. 

Chrystal: Well, you do have to take time to process it privately. I think, um, I was at a, uh, Like I was mentioning a writing, writing relations gathering, uh, over the weekend and this is kind of a group of adult educators are working around social justice and we talked about circles and the different types of circles, talking circles, healing circles, working circles, um, check in circles. 

Chrystal: And. We talked about, you know, trauma dumping in those circles and how do you cope with that and should you cope with that? Why do you cope with that? All these questions came up and there is a need for people to empty that from themselves. There, you know, there's a, that's a, we have to release some steam from all that, but finding therapeutic spaces to do it doesn't always seem as easy as we think. 

Chrystal: Um, So, supporting people, accompanying people, maybe to those 1st appointments, or if, you know, it's not going well. Encouraging them to find another, you know, try again with someone else because, you know, I'm a counsellor, I do a lot of counselling, but sometimes you and the person across from you or in the other box on Zoom, uh, it's not a good click. 

Chrystal: You're not, you know, you're not resonating with each other and that's totally okay. We can't be everything to everybody. Everybody's different all that good stuff. Uh, but when you do find that right person, holy cow, can you ever get a lot of work done that inner work? It's like, and you will, it's so hard. 

Chrystal: And this is something I was talking with the youth about recently. It is so hard to get going on that healing work. It's hard to get in the door. It's hard to get the, the person to help you. It's hard to get the resources to get the help. Um, but once you find that person, once you get in there. It's hard work, but you will feel better and you will feel better in a way that you will look back and be like, wait, I didn't think I could feel this good again. 

Chrystal: And so it's, that's part of it. You have to do that. Process and as someone who has that kind of intergenerational charm and glow about my ancestral lineage and whatnot. Uh, you're going to have to do it more than once. Likely it's, it's just, it's just the reality of our changing and evolving perspectives. 

Chrystal: It's, it's what we. As a species do as we grow and we change and, uh, so that's, yeah, having those moments to, to really share and, um, connect with. What you went through and to honour it in a special way that makes sense for you, that feels safe. Reclaiming that safety is just so key. Feeling safe with others, feeling safe to talk. 

Chrystal: Um, but also feeling safe enough to speak up when, when you're not feeling safe. Because that is probably much harder than all the other things, uh, that I've experienced. Uh, doing all the healing work. You know, advocating for all the other people and it comes to myself and it's, you know, uh, we had a situation where there was a circle with kind of that was deemed to have trauma dumping and it made that a person in the circle state, you know, like, I don't feel safe to share because of the amount of trauma that's been spoken about here. 

Chrystal: And that was. An important thing to speak up and share on. Um, but at the same time, that space was run by an indigenous elder. And so the elders have a lot of different teachings and a lot of different approaches and some elders will say, well, this is what came out today. And this is what we have to deal with and work with and, you know. 

Chrystal: It's like, don't blame me, blame creator, it's happening. Um, which, here and there, I'm not the one to decide all the protocol decisions. Uh, but with, with these, these opportunities to address these things and to, Work through it. Um, you, you sometimes have to dump, but you just have to pick the right place. 

Chrystal: And if it's not the right place, you might need backup to call that out. And that's okay too. If you're not in a place to do that. 

Risa: Yeah, I have, I have so many follow up questions. It's so generous of you to share this perspective. One, just your lived perspective, but also, you know, your social worker training and all of this, this actual education that that we can learn from from you. Um, I'm thinking about like, Okay. You know, so many people looking for spaces to share grief. 

Risa: And this conversation about trauma dumping comes up a lot. I'm also thinking about this Maria Bamford comedy bit. She's a brilliant, my, my favorite comedian who talks a lot about mental health. But she sort of talks about how hard it is to find help. And so she advocates just like take it wherever you can get it. 

Risa: Like she'll do it on like the helpline at the Costco or whatever. She's just like, she'll just like take it wherever she can get it. That's it. Um, and I think there's so much deep wisdom in that. Like, you know, it's so hard to navigate our healthcare systems. We can't afford, mental health services aren't generally covered. 

Risa: Like, people need help. So they're coming, they're coming anywhere. They're, they're coming off in Missing Witches circles and we want to make a safe space, but not really trained how to do it. I wonder what And that balance looks like from your perspective, if, uh, and I kind of really love the elder's perspective of like, that's what came up today. 

Risa: So we're going to have to hold it. But I wonder what else you think about like, one, how we can make a safe space for people to say, I actually don't feel safe here. Like I gotta, you know, I got to do something about this because this, this just got too hard for me. Too many buttons just got pushed for me right now. 

Risa: And how we can protect that person and also sort of makes, make circles of care around the people who really did just come and it overflowed out of them. And there was something they needed to say that day. 

Chrystal: Yeah, it's, it is a fine balance because you don't want to have people leaving that space going, I can't deal with this. 

Chrystal: I gotta go. And I've absolutely been that person like, what is this? Where is this going? Like, no, I'm out and click. Uh, and then there's the, the other part of, uh, like, what we, what we talked about in our little meeting this weekend is that, you know, that trauma dumping. Is unsafe for the person disclosing as well, because it is a feeling of being out of control. 

Chrystal: And how many times, like, have I overshared something in, like, a nervous moment or something, and then walked away? 

Chrystal: Oh, why did I say that? Uh, it happens, you know, it really, it just happens and to practice kindness in those slips is important as an individual. Um, but for the person receiving that, um, You know, it can be a long drawn out thing. Uh, if if someone's really sharing and going, you know, it's it's important to as a facilitator say, you know, like, I need to interject and I'm so sorry. 

Chrystal: I don't want to. You know, upset you and I, I feel you're upset already. I want to hold this in the proper way, but we can't do that in this space and, you know, giving a moment of breath and, you know, letting any, any, taking that pause. So anyone know that, you know, we're going to share some resources at the end, or we're going to send resources. 

Chrystal: We're going to. You know, provide a number for someone, or in some cases, you know, we have someone in the space and we can put you into a breakout room. Um, those kinds of offers that we can't talk about this right now, because this isn't a safe space for that. That type of sharing, but we can create a safe space for you, but we have to right now serve the whole group safety. 

Chrystal: And that means we're going to pause for a 2nd or take a deep breath. You know, decide if you need a break, depending on how big of a blah that was and, you know, take a minute, reshore all of that and, and try and start again or, uh, you know, start fresh, but also. You know, honouring that person like they, they did maybe have that, uh, I, I don't want to dismiss someone trauma dumping because people tend to share when they feel safe. 

Chrystal: And I've had so many experiences where I meet someone for the first time, and, you know, maybe we've spent a session or an afternoon or doing whatever, and they do, they do. You know, trauma dump in like a sentence or two and you're like, oh well, I'm really sorry to hear that. You know, I've been, I've run into someone at the grocery store picking, like squeezing avocados and they just, and you're like, that was across the whole produce section, buddy. 

Chrystal: Like, do you want to go get a coffee? Uh, this, this isn't an okay spot, but I want to hear more and see how you're doing. Um, so just taking some of the fear out of that, I guess, what would be seen as a confrontation. Because it's, you've already been confronted with the, the Cher, and you both feel kind of like, uh, what do we do? 

Chrystal: So. 

Risa: Yeah, and just honouring the bravery in it too, you know, that. There, there is a real moment of like, I feel like I can do this, so I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna unleash this story. And then, and then all of the feelings and repercussions that can come after that. I always really want to honor the bravery that was like, ready to do it. 

Chrystal: And you know, I've, like I said, I've had these experiences. And what I try to do is. You know, using my own experiences where, like, I first got into talking about my lived experience with Planned Parenthood, the executive director in Ottawa, she used to work with Operation Come Home, where I met her as a runaway teen, runaway, uh, and. 

Chrystal: She invited me because she knew I had had a child at 18. She knew I was a teen parent and I'd also had abortions and I also had domestic violence. So she invited me to share these stories with Planned Parenthood volunteers who are going to be doing options counseling. And I would I love doing that, and it got me my start, um, and that's something I try to invite people to do with the Death Duel training, if it's appropriate, um, if I know I'm going to be in Toronto, and I've met someone that has done this, you know, maybe they need to share their story for their own healing too. 

Chrystal: There's reasons that we want to share these things and, you know, one, like I said, maybe they felt safe with you. There was something very integral in your energy that was like, I can trust you with this and you can handle it. And that can happen. And there's some alchemy there, but there's also like, I'm having a shit day and whoops, I just said that. 

Chrystal: Um, so yeah, gauging little assessment, maybe critical analysis. 

Amy: I, I need to know this and I'm sure many of our listeners need to know this too. How do we transform? Grief from like a noun to a verb like how do we take grief as a state of being as a weight on our chest or a sick feeling in our stomach or and and make it into an action item like how do we go from grief to grieving like do you have like a practice or a recommendation on on a way that we can sort of make grieving Mm hmm. 

Amy: An action that's not just a weight that sits on our chest, but rather a process through which we can transform it into something productive or healing or, like, useful. 

Chrystal: That is, like, such a kick ass question. Awesome, awesome question. Because with grief literacy, you know, you learn about the different forms of grief. 

Chrystal: And You know, the different packages that grief can come in, and then you learn about how grief can take, you know, kind of these disguises of different emotions, you know, your sadness or your, um, you know, sadness can look like anger, that kind of thing. You learn about those aspects of grief, but there's not really much talk on the morph of, you know, the noun to the verb. 

Chrystal: So thank you so much. I love that question. This is something that I brainstorm with people a lot because it's important. It's important to move through different types of grief, different stages. You might, you know, there's that whole diagram of the non linear grief that's like a big squiggly mess. It's very accurate and you can, you know, boomerang back to, to, you know, Previous stages and forms of grief as before, but with making it into that verb or action. 

Chrystal: I really suggest people think about, first of all, there's a lot of reflection. There's a lot of reflection that goes into grief. I think moving through it. If you are grieving a family member, a pet, a loved one, uh, thinking about. That loved one, you know, maybe what reminds you of them because it's going to pop up for you no matter what. 

Chrystal: So embracing those reminders, making those positive. things for you, things that you can celebrate. Uh, you know, some examples people have shared are, you know, they find an Indian head penny or something, or, uh, you know, the number 333 on the clock, or, um, cardinals, angels, you know, oh, uh, this one song comes on and I, you know, this favorite song, and I think about them every single time. 

Chrystal: Those little moments can allow you to actively Celebrate somebody because you can embrace it and kind of hug it and own it a little bit. And it's something you can keep in your pocket like a talisman. Um, that's 1 thing. Uh, but if you're feeling grief around transition and change, um, or loss that maybe isn't necessarily a death. 

Chrystal: You know, maybe it's a death of a situation, right, just like in the tarot, it's not necessarily, you know, our IP, it could be a major change. For grief like that, that can be some of the more trickier to navigate because people understand a loved one dying. It's pretty clear cut. You're not here anymore and I miss you. 

Chrystal: But when you end, you know, a friendship that has run its course, you know, how do you grieve that in a way? That doesn't seem self indulgent or silly, or, you know, doesn't make you angry again, or whatever came up in that particular, you know, that particular example, um, if you're grieving, you know, that I had this experience recently, I had gotten a, I dance with entrepreneurship sometimes, but the. 

Chrystal: Reality of the world and money and whatnot. I also dance with the odd job and I also usually quit these jobs. Um, but this last job, I was so good at it. I loved it so much. It was so good. I was loving the staff. I was loving, I already felt like, Oh my gosh, I feel like work family vibes. Like this is incredible. 

Chrystal: And it was reciprocated and I felt it deeply. Um, but there was an element. It was a very toxic ED, that I had to flee and that was what was best for me. And so much grief, I still get mad when I think about it, but that's grief. And so for that particular example, I've been able to honour what has come to me instead. 

Chrystal: So it's, it's really just a reflective piece. It's finding something that can go alongside it. You know, I'm grieving this job that didn't work out the way I wanted, but right alongside it is my business. And the first week I left that job, because it was right for me, I had 35, 000 in contracts in like four days, four business days. 

Chrystal: And that to me was like, Hey, okay. I did what I was supposed to do, uh, you know, so just manifest a little, uh, but you know, like trying to think of other examples, uh, you know, uh, maybe there's grief over one great example that I got from a training we had that I have permission to, to share, uh, was a new to be grandma. 

Chrystal: Her adult son, uh, was expecting a baby and, uh, she wasn't upset about the baby or anything. She was very thrilled, but she still had like a sadness and she couldn't quite put her, her finger on it. She was like, kind of not fully able to celebrate and she didn't understand what was going on. And in the training, she was able to realize like, it's, it's a grief that she's feeling and she's grieving that, yes, You know, she's going to be a grandma. 

Chrystal: She's not grieving that part. She's like, I'm totally fine about that. It's not like I'm grieving becoming old or something. Uh, but she was grieving that her son wasn't this little kid anymore. And she was also grieving for him in anticipatory grief because she knows how hard it is to be a parent. And she knows what he's going to have to go through. 

Chrystal: And oh yeah, it's a girl. So now he's going to know what girls know and, you know, whether he likes it or not. And, you know, so she's grieving for that, for, for all of that. And it was just being able to put words to it that allowed her to find the actions. That led her to a better spot and she was able to have like a heart to heart with him about that grief and that was the action she needed to keep going and moving through that grief. 

Chrystal: So, um, sometimes it's finding the words, sometimes it's just connecting with others, going through something similar. Um, you know, I, I, a lot of what we interact with. around grief within the collective, uh, has connections to addictions and substance, uh, abuse and, and death around, around those, uh, issues and, uh, grieving parents and partners and children. 

Chrystal: Um, you know, it's, it's a hurt that, uh, nobody can fix. Nobody can change anything about it. For you. And either that loved one is going to find a way out, or they're going to be gone. And it's just a matter of the clock winding down. And it's so difficult. But when I bring this up in a training or in a workshop or something, the ones in the group who know what this pain is about, they very quickly find each other. 

Chrystal: Very, very quickly. And it's just being able to commiserate a little. You know, um, being able to, you know, maybe you don't want to really, like, get into all the aspects of how it's hard to love someone who abuses substances. Um, you know, and there's a lot of ways that individuals are impacted, uh, from their bank accounts to their housing situations to pets to children. 

Chrystal: Uh, there's so many things that are impacted when it comes to, uh, addictions and. There's really, I think, community is what is the best, like, gathering in community is really the best action and also, if possible, dragging some of these people to community for connection, because that is what's going to bring them back. 

Chrystal: Um, yeah, I mean, like I said, I'm, that's probably one of my favorite parts of this work is brainstorming ways to make that grief into something actionable. Something to find that way forward. 

Risa: Can I ask about, um, practices, um, traditions, witchy ones, or, you know, culturally specific ones if you feel like open to sharing those for, for, for making that transition, for, for, for moving a circle of people who've come together because they have shared grief, transitioning that moment somehow. 

Chrystal: Well, I think the most popular way, uh, and the most accessible way is feasting. 

Chrystal: You know, everybody's got to eat, you know, make your, make your potluck plans, make your You know, local, uh, shawarma dream meal happened, whatever, uh, and you, you come together. And, uh, what is most common, uh, that a lot of folks will know in Indigenous communities is we have something called the spirit plate and the spirit plate is a way to create, um, you make a plate. 

Chrystal: And if sometimes the person doing it has a specific spirit in mind, um, sometimes it's someone that the community has lost and there's a very intentional person that's thought of for that spirit plate, but you put their favorite foods on that plate and you serve them just like they were going to be, you know, You're going to pass it right off to them. 

Chrystal: And you would, uh, you would put out that spirit plate for the spirits. And, uh, at the end of the gathering, uh, you know, the facilitator, really the person who made that, that plate is typically expected to bring that plate and return it to the elements. Whether you put it, you know, hopefully in a completely biodegradable type of thing in the bush or something, the animals, the, the earth, all of the, you know, the rain, whatever, it'll all take care of that, um, you know, or you can put it into a sacred fire, um, I don't know if waterways what you got to do. 

Chrystal: I wouldn't be putting dishes in waterways, but you know, you got to think about it, return it to the elements in a good way. That's, you know, leaving no trace, no harm. And, uh, that's, that's really popular. Um, and what else, you know, like setting that place at the dinner table. I know that's something that some people will do. 

Chrystal: You know, automatically without realizing, and there's some families that will practice traditions. Well, they'll keep that place and they'll continue to set that place for the first year that they're gone. Or maybe it's every Sunday when the family would typically gather or something like that. So there's ways that you can physically. 

Chrystal: Practice, you know, grief rituals that, that help you honor and move through that grief and, and, uh, in some culture, like in some nations, you know, there, there's a really strong belief that you cannot speak that person's name for the first year after they've left, uh, because it can distract them from their journey. 

Chrystal: They'll be too compelled by their connections that they had on the earth and, and be strayed from that transition. And then there's, you know, other ones who just completely turn around and ignore the transition and stick around. Um, and one of the, the practices I learned about that I've really loved and has been really important for traumatic death, um, is the crying blanket. 

Chrystal: And so, uh, you know, traumatic death. traumatic loss, you know, I won't try and quantify that. That's for the, the individual with the loss. Um, but, you know, I'm thinking about a parent who lost their adult, uh, child to, to suicide and, you know, just not being able to reconcile that loss in such a deep way. Um, and really almost denial and disbelief for a very like shock for a very long time. 

Chrystal: Um, So that person expressed a lot of difficulty in that they were just, they couldn't stop crying. Just so much crying. And so when we're in community, when we're in gatherings, it's really typical when, um, you know, someone is sharing and if they become emotional and they, they're crying, uh, you know, the tears, the tissues from the tears will be gathered and protected in safety and, uh, that'll be put into a paper bag. 

Chrystal: And again, the facilitator or, you tasked with helping in that space will be responsible for those tears and will. Turn them to, uh, the fire and they'll go back up to creator. And so instead of, uh, the burning of the tear, the bag of tears, uh, You are supposed to gather your tears for a year and, you know, finding a, you know, I used a really nice, uh, style basket with my client. 

Chrystal: And, um, you know, like, even the container, picking out the container for these tears was very important part of this process. Um, and so. And this was something I've been working with this client for a long time, and I was struggling to uphold them. And I had to go to the other members, the elder members of the collective to get their guidance. 

Chrystal: And so, yes, this was the process that was suggested to me, but gathering those tears for a year, having a ceremony at the end of that year long period. And then part of my role was to take those tears and steward them for that person. And to see how I would release that back and then. Uh, I gifted them a blanket and the blanket was meant to, to, uh, instead of gathering the tears. 

Chrystal: Now you have the blanket. So when you feel that sadness, or if you miss that person, you can wrap yourself in that blanket and it can comfort you in that moment of grief. And, uh, he, he really carried the blanket around kind of like, you know, the Snoop, the Charlie Brown character. Um, But he, you know, he always traveled with it. 

Chrystal: He always kept it on his bed. And it was, you know, this physical thing that he was able to anchor his grief into, and it helped steady him for. You know, in a way that he hadn't expected would work so and I didn't either. I was so grateful. I was like, yes, it's working. But when we have worry and care for people in such deep spots, uh, you know, you, you do have to try. 

Chrystal: And that was a teaching that I got that I was like, again, really grateful because it was exactly appropriate for that, like how horrible that grief was. so much. 

Amy: I love that turn of phrase, stewarding tears. I'm going to like keep that as like an element of love and friendship for the rest of my life. 

Amy: It's so poetic the notion of stewarding tears. We know that Blackbird Medicine is a one woman show. And we're so grateful that you choose to put on this show, um, despite, you know, the, the, the weight that I'm, I'm sure that it, it puts on you. So I want to know if our listeners want to support Blackbird Medicines as a part of this reparations fundraiser. 

Amy: So if you donate to Blackbird Medicines during the month of May, that will qualify you, um, to be entered in our prize raffle. But again, you're a one woman show, I'm sure you don't have a whole, like, financial system in place, so what is the best way for our listeners who want to support you and join our reparations fundraiser during the month of May at the same time? 

Amy: What's the best way for them to do that? 

Chrystal: Well, that's so generous and lovely. So, Chi miigwech. Um, you know, I'm, I'm in Canada, so the EMT is the mightiest of all. Blackbirdmedicines at gmail. com. But I also have a PayPal, and, uh, you can find me with the same email. So, um, thank you so much. It's, uh, it's lovely to get these invitations. 

Chrystal: And this is such a highlight for me. Like, you have no idea. So, I'm, I'm really grateful just to, like, yak with you ladies. You have the best questions, and I think I might make a t shirt out of Steward of Tears. I don't know. 

Amy: I read on your website, you said writing is my medicine, and I'm really looking forward to your book. 

Amy: I know that it's been sort of in process for a while, and I hope that Um, whatever fire gets lit under your butt gets lit, you know, quickly, um, because I want to read it. I want to own your book and I want to read it whenever, whenever it comes out. 

Chrystal: Oh, too much. Yeah. It's, you know, you lay out a work plan and, but, uh, You know, there's, there's been so many interesting twists and turns this year, the past year, like my grandfather passing. 

Chrystal: And, uh, a little bit more recently, um, my, my children's father passed from his own experiences with, with addictions. So, uh, it's just, you know, it's, there are difficult losses and especially to process in some ways, but the stories. Um, the stories are just, I'm so full with stories and so the, the wonderful, uh, person over at North Atlantic Books is like, Hey, you do you, you, you write those stories. 

Chrystal: So I might even have more than one book. We'll see what happens, but it is coming. It's coming. 

Risa: Sometimes you can't write the book cause you're still in the middle of living the story that the book will be. Yeah. 

Chrystal: Start to smack me in the face a little, yeah. 

Risa: But we're so lucky to get to talk to you in progress of these epic books that you are living and writing, Thunderbird Storyteller. 

Risa: Thank you so much for shepherding your wisdom here. It's really such a pleasure. I know Amy and I both sit and think and draw things that you have told us throughout our work throughout the year, like so much of what. You say when I just, and funnily, like you'll apologize, like you've been rambling and three months later, that's the part we're still talking about. 

Risa: So thank you for bringing your expansive thoughts and sharing them with us. It's just so much gratitude and it's just so fun. I mean, it's weird to say that a conversation about grief is fun, but it is just fun to, to be with you and your, your spirit and just to think through these things and to feel like a future. 

Risa: there, like that there is so much grief, but the fact that someone like you is there shepherding those tears, stewarding those tears really does give me hope. So thanks for coming back on the show. 

Amy: Before we say bless the fucking bee, let me just remind you, um, this conversation is a part of our reparations fundraiser. that runs through the month of May, so make a donation of 10 or more to your local. And again, please, like, we've had so many emails telling us, like, this was an impetus for me to go and find out about a local Indigenous, um, organization that I didn't know existed. 

Amy: So seek them out. Please do that. Make a donation of 10 or more, um, to the Native Women's Shelter or send a PayPal to blackbirdmedicines at gmail. com. Take a screenshot of your receipt, email it to missingwitches at gmail. com with the subject line reparation. You'll be entered to win fabulous prizes and you'll automatically receive a coupon code for a discount from HouseWitch. 

Amy: A crystal is always a joy and a pleasure, even through our tears. We are laughing and loving and we're so deeply grateful that you have chosen to make an action item of your own grief and to, to share your, your love with your community and also with us and with our listeners. 

Chrystal: To request. Thank you 

Risa: And Blessed fucking Be, I think. 

Amy: Blessed fucking Be. 

Chrystal: You guys are great.

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