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How Tripping with my Brother Helped Us Grieve Our Father’s Death

With our guards down, we found closure—together

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Sheltered inside a capsule-shaped cabin on the vast grounds of a farm in southern England, we squealed in excitement as the first snow of the winter began to fall. In our secluded Airbnb, my brother and I found ourselves nestled in our own snowflake-encrusted pod of reality, away from the house of our late 60-year-old father, Nick, who the week prior tragically passed away in his sleep somewhat unexpectedly. It was undoubtedly the biggest moment in both of our lives and it shook us deeply. We were grieving, and still decided to trip.

It was my younger brother’s idea (he’s 23, I’m 29) and he supplied the drugs: tablets of LSA, a natural psychedelic derived from Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds. I simply acquiesced: it did seem like a good idea, certainly better than drinking away our sorrows. After all, that’s basically what killed our beloved father, a result of bleeding in his liver due to decades of regular alcohol consumption and eating poorly.

The psychedelic effects kicked in relatively quickly and we both breathed a series of collective sighs as the belly and knee tingles set in, seeming to let go of some of the baggage picked up from clearing out dad’s house in the days following his death. Whatever I’ve been feeling, it’s difficult to comprehend what my brother has gone through: he found him, and gave him CPR upon the instructions of the paramedics despite him seeming to have long passed. 

picture of man and two children
Courtesy of Mattha Busby

So when he suddenly embraced me in the cabin, telling me how much he loves me—and I cuddled him back tightly—tears were brought to my eyes. Of course, we have touched and hugged while beginning to grieve. But there have been plenty of fist pumps too, and not the same dropping of both of our masculine exteriors. Here we were naked, in a sense: transparent, vulnerable, and high on a drug purchased legally from an Amsterdam smart shop.

LSA feels similar to LSD in terms of the connectedness, empathy, and intensity, but less electric. The trip is much shorter, too, which is useful since my brother has to work in the morning. Following our embrace, I offered to give him a deep tissue massage for the first time. (I undertook training and began practicing during my 18 months abroad.) He laid across a bed and remarked that he had no thoughts on his mind, jostling for attention, as I rubbed cacao butter into his lats and we both entered a flow state.

Grief and psychedelics made global news earlier this year when Prince Harry revealed that mushrooms and ayahuasca helped him address trauma from the death of his mother Diana at a young age. Some reactionary right-wing outlets predictably dismissed the idea as dangerous hocus pocus. But the New York Times, among others, took a largely sympathetic and serious view—a sign of the changing times. Harry told of being laden with guilt for not being able to cry after his mother’s sudden passing. But after drinking ayahuasca with a professional, he had an epiphany.

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READ: Can Ayahuasca Heal Grief?

“After taking ayahuasca with the proper people,” Harry said in an interview, “I suddenly realized—wow!—it’s not about the crying. She [Diana] wants me to be happy. This weight off my chest was not the need to cry, it was the acceptance and realization that she has gone, but that she wants me to be happy and that she’s very much present in my life,” he added.

Of his experience with mushrooms, Harry remarked: “It was the cleaning of the windshield, removal of life’s filters. It removed it all for me and brought me a sense of relaxation, release, comfort, a lightness that I managed to hold onto.”

For me, a superbly well-facilitated mushroom ceremony months after my father’s death did this very thing. At a March mushroom retreat in Jamaica with Beckley Retreats, it seemed that I was communicating with him. I felt an almost indescribable feeling that he is content, his spirit lives on and he may be on course to discover the peace that largely eluded him as a human on earth.

old photo of family waving
Courtesy of Mattha Busby

In his low yet soft voice, he reassured me that he is indeed fine and I have his blessing to live my life as I wish, sensibly. It had echoes of the soothing voice that I heard answering questions after he passed, until his cremation when his presence faded. I was filled with gratitude for how he supported my sporting endeavors, my education and career; having instilled me with punk, socialist values as a child. Even if this has all constituted nothing more than a grief-stricken hallucination, it’s been a helpful mirage. 

Society is in urgent need of more tools to assist bereaved people: at least one-in-10 experience prolonged emotional strain and intense grief for months, if not years, following the loss of a loved one. Yet despite such anecdotal reports, there is an absence of high quality evidence on the effect of psychedelics on grief.  

A small study suggested that ayahuasca can deliver profound, long-term relief from grief. Some participants said they re-encountered and interacted with the person they had lost under the influence of the visionary Amazonian brew. A majority of the 50 people studied said the medicine helped them move forward and accept the reality they had sadly been faced with.

READ: Psilocybin Therapy and the Rise of Existential Medicine

Emerging research also suggests that the use of hallucinogens can help people become more philosophical and at ease with the prospect of their own death. There seems to be overlap here with the management of grief. So if psychedelics do provide a means to connect with oneself, and possibly even one’s ancestors, then they may, hypothetically, be able to help bereaved people address their losses, while allowing others to prepare for their own passing without being wracked with fear.

photo of two men
Courtesy of Mattha Busby

While many bereaved people find relief with traditional talking therapy, tripping safely, at least anecdotally, seems to reliably let love flow and help quickly reframe some of the more challenging moments of our lives to gain closure. With the ego disabled, emotional blockages weaken as a river of flowing consciousness passes through our beings.

Back in the cabin, my brother and I chuckled about a few of the more difficult tasks we had to complete together in those days, not least of which included disposing of a filthy mattress. As the LSA began to wear off, we attempted to put on the gas-fired barbecue but it seemed rather complicated. 

We ended up leaving the gas on for too long while we figured it out and when my brother did succeed in lighting it, he burned off part of his eyebrows and a large part of his hair. As a barber who naturally cares about the state of his hair, it was a tough one to make a joke out of straight away—especially given that he was lucky it wasn’t worse. Now, however, it’s an object of amusement. Had dad seen it happen, despite his concern, he may have sneaked a giggle, too.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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