A psychopomp is a being (sometimes human, sometimes not) who guides spirits into or through the afterlife. Psychopomps appear in various world mythologies as well as in popular culture; for example, Stephen King’s The Dark Half references psychopomps represented by a flock of sparrows.
While people tend to think that a psychopomp is purely a fictional or mythological thing, there are those of us in real life who consider ourselves psychopomps.
Yeah, I said “us.”
I was about five years old the first time I “saw” a spirit. I put that in quotation marks because it wasn’t so much something I saw with my physical eyes as it was a mental image that my brain sort of projected into reality. My great-grandmother had passed away, and I saw her as my parents were discussing or preparing for the funeral. It’s been 48 years, so I don’t remember the exact context, but I do remember seeing my great-grandmother. I didn’t know why I was seeing her or why my parents got upset when I mentioned it, but I did learn pretty fast that seeing dead people wasn’t something I was supposed to talk about.
Since then, nearly every time someone with a connection to me has passed away (and even sometimes with people who have no connection to me), I’ve “seen” them in a similar way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to identify whether they’re just appearing because they want to say goodbye or whether they need help finding where they’re supposed to go next. When they need help, I try to help them. It’s a process of visualization, mostly, in which I bring them to someplace that has meaning for them and help them find the light they’re supposed to cross into. If you’ve seen the TV series Ghost Whisperer, it’s similar to that, except I don’t solve crimes. And I do have a choice; if a spirit comes to me and I’m not comfortable helping them, I say so and my guides help them find someone else to assist. Sometimes my guides run interference for me when they believe it would be detrimental for me to work with a certain spirit, as they did last year when my mother passed away.
I know all this sounds kind of weird and “out there,” and that’s fine. You don’t have to believe in anything you’d rather not believe in. But there are those who do this work intentionally, sometimes assisting spirits after they pass and sometimes assisting them in the passing.
As I was starting work on Fill the Empty Spaces, I was also rewatching Ghost Whisperer and thought, “It would be cool to have a romance character who’s a psychopomp. I don’t think I’ve seen that in any of the books I’ve read.” And then I thought, “I’m writing a book. And I have a character who could be a psychopomp; why not?” Thus was born Lochlan, the friend-with-potential who my main character Del meets when he starts volunteering at a cat cafe.
Like me, Lochlan had his first experience as a psychopomp at age five with his late great-grandmother. The way Lochlan guides spirits is similar to how it works for me as well; after all, “write what you know” is one of the most common pieces of advice for authors. But his experiences and the spirits he guides during the story or tells Del about are not at all similar to anything I’ve dealt with. For which I’m thankful; Lochlan gets put through the wringer.
Fill the Empty Spaces is available now in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon. To thank the Kitty Cat Cafe and Adoption Lounge in Peabody, MA, for allowing me to use the names of some of their real-life cat residents and the picture of Charlie the Sweater Cat on the cover, I am donating a portion of my royalties to the cafe, so your purchase of the book (or should I say “purr-chase”… sorry, I blame the bad pun on not having had enough coffee this morning) will help feed, house, and provide medical care for multiple furry (and, currently, one not-furry) feline friends. If you want to help support the cafe or pay a visit, you can also check out their website.