The Other Side of the Couch – Making an Ofrenda

Autumn has arrived. As I look out the window I see leaves scattered across the yard, berries turned bright red on the shrubs just below the sill, and squirrels busily chasing whatever they can store up for the cold to come. The angle of the sun is different now, and brilliant as it is, still plays hide and seek with wind and clouds. The humidity of summer is over, and a little crisp bite of a breeze sends the leaves scurrying.
Autumn has always been to me a bittersweet time – a time of laying to rest, of putting by, of acknowledging endings. The time of harvest has arrived, and the time to sweep the fields of plantings, prepare them for the rest of winter, has arrived. No wonder then that in this time of planetary transition, I am drawn into remembering.
The Disney movie “Coco”, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this small gem of an animated film, focuses on the story of a young boy who finds himself catapulted into the land of the dead. Based on the Mexican tradition of the “El Dia de los Muertos” – the Day of the Dead (celebrated in Mexican culture on November 1) – he finds himself as a living boy searching for someone he remembers. This causes consternation in the Land of the Dead, as a living boy is NOT supposed to be there! After a number of snafus all works out, and he finds the family he was meant to find. A message of the film is the importance of remembering and honoring those who have gone before us.
I was touched by my daughter’s request for family pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents so that she could make an “ofrenda”, as is done in the movie, to remember those dear people and to teach her young daughter about them. What a lovely idea! And so I began to search and to remember.
In the process of finding and sharing these pictures I was drawn into the joy of thinking about and remembering these loved family members – remembering not only their faces, but also their beings – the things they enjoyed, the times we spent together. Little moments returned – shopping with my mother; making boiled custard with my grandmother – so many precious moments.
In our Western culture this concept of celebrating the dead may seem morbid to some – but I am seeing it as a lovely and gentle way to both grieve and honor those who live on in our hearts. So thank you to my daughter for this opportunity – and welcome to Autumn, that time of bittersweet Remembering.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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