Honoring Ancestors Doesn’t Have to Mean Following in Their Footsteps – In Fact, it Here’s Why the Opposite Can Be True

By Rachel Puryear

I hope you enjoyed a Happy Halloween, dear readers, and that you were able to let some fun, fantasy, and imagination into your life this holiday. For those who also observe Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or any other variation of honoring departed loved ones and ancestors at this time of year, I also wish you spiritual fulfillment and healing.

If you are honoring departed ancestors this holiday, you might be reflecting on the differences between their lives lived in an earlier age, and your life today. You might wonder how they survived the things they did, overcoming hardship and tragedy; especially while maintaining a kind and generous spirit. You may wonder if the way you are living you life now would make them proud.

Candlelight vigil on a sidewalk for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.

You might also be wondering deep down – with a lot of discomfort and insecurity – if you’re measuring up to them and their legacy now. You might secretly worry that you never would have been what they were, had you been born to the same circumstances that they were; and you might wonder how they would see you now. You might feel guilty for the sacrifices they made for you.

However, if they are still watching you from a place beyond this world, they are probably much more proud of you than you are giving yourself credit for – and here is why.

Burning incense in vases.

Following in the footsteps of your parents, grandparents, or other ancestors might seem to be the perfect way to honor them. Being more like them, complaining as little as possible, and even making your living the way that they did; might appear to you to be your duty as a means of showing them respect, and building your own character.

However, this notion is misguided, and unnecessary. Being just like them in every way is likely not at all what they wanted for you.

Perhaps you think of a great-grandfather who worked brutally long hours in awful working conditions, for very little pay, to support a family; and wonder if you complain too much about a job you hate today. Perhaps you think of a grandmother who married in her teens and had several children, while you want to plan your own family for later in life and wait for the right partner – and you may or may not want to raise kids. Perhaps an ancestor immigrated here and was the first generation to escape poverty, and you feel the need achieve the most prestigious title you can, so as to not let their efforts be in vain – even if you prefer a more creative pursuit, or something that will allow for a simpler and more relaxed life. Maybe you feel guilty and not good enough, whatever your ancestry might look like.

However, chances are, your ancestors actually wanted a better life for you, not necessarily the same one they had. That’s why they endured what they did, hoping that you could have better choices.

Perhaps your great-granddad who worked so hard for so little would want you to use the relative power you have, to find a situation that brings you better fulfillment and satisfaction that you have now. Perhaps your grandma who built a large family so young hoped that none of them would follow that path – and worked tirelessly so that her offspring could make their own choices. Perhaps your ancestor who achieved a lot – and they may or may not realize this, deep down, if they are still living – wants you to have a life you enjoy more, with better options, and doing what is right for you – rather than being exactly who they are.

Their sacrifices gave you better options. Their cheerfulness and patience in the face of tragedy and injustice made it possible for you to fight for something better for yourself and those around you, and they expect you to speak up for yourself and others in the ways that they could not. Their hard work and difficult lives enabled you to choose life pursuits that you could enjoy, and have a better life while doing.

You don’t have to be them to honor them. Instead, a better way to honor them is to use what you have to the best of your ability. That’s probably what they would want for you, much more so than following an unhappy path and an unfulfilling life. The most sincere way to honor them in to enjoy and appreciate the choices you have, and to make the most of those for yourself and others.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to your ancestors, and to honoring them by living the best life you can, and appreciating what they did to help make that possible. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you do not do so already. xoxo

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