Not too long ago, I attended a lecture on death and dying.
Now this is a topic for me that as of late has many emotions circling around it. There are two main parts that I want to talk about though: my own feelings towards it, and my own process when confronted by it.
My own feelings toward it.
For so much of my life, I have given the impression that I wasn’t afraid of it. “I see it as inevitable, therefore what is there to be scared of?” That is what I used to say to people when asked my personal opinion. When really that is a lie. I am terrified of it. I am terrified that my days will end. I am terrified that I will miss out on experiences. I am scared that my loved ones will have to suffer my loss.
There’s so much unknown wrapped up in death that gives me anxiety. Not necessarily anxiety of where I will go, but more anxiety that my life as it is now will be no more. And today I admitted it. I told my class that until this point, I misrepresented myself and that I was ready to set the record straight. I don’t find sanctity in the unknown.
The past few years, I have suffered a great deal of death around me. And it hasn’t been the kind of passing on that is expected and acknowledged. It was harsh, violent, unexpected, devastating, piercing, saddening and lonely. It forced so many emotions into my personal space that I didn’t anticipate. I wasn’t given the opportunity to say good-bye to the people I love and therefore when I think of death, unfortunately right now for me, I only see darkness. Which leads me to my next topic…
My own process when confronted with death.
I think in the past I have rushed my grieving process. Really wanting myself to be “back where I used to be”‘ and “happy again.” With all that’s happened and all that’s been laid in my path, I can acknowledge that by doing that, I wasn’t giving each individual circumstance its due. I have felt so much sadness surrounding the entirety of it. So much exhaustion from the relentlessness that I just wanted to bundle all of the deaths together and grieve them all at once. And after I had grieved them, I just forced myself to see the beauty in them which isn’t necessarily wrong or bad, I just feel it isn’t complete to who I am. I shouldn’t be so quick to “take gifts” from my unfortunate circumstance. I should, in my opinion, give the mourning just as much ability of expression. Because it’s the completion of mourning which transforms into the receiving of gifts.
Over the years, I’ve learned to take this process slowly—and really reach into what it is that’s making me want to avoid feeling that grief, what it is about the sadness that seems too hard to sit with. And I realized that life and death are partners in this world. One doesn’t come without the other. So I learned to embrace the elements of death that made me run so far from it at one point.
I now have come to a place in my life where I acknowledge that the two work hand in hand. And death, yes, is an unknown, but I feel like I have the most life in me when I am able to truly and genuinely understand my relationship with death.
How is it that you’ll be able to embrace death in the midst of living the fullest and most deeply felt life?
Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
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