Death, Dying and Grief
We have all had experiences with grief and loss, some tragic, some profound, and some transformational.
Most of these experiences will break your heart open.
Empty tissue boxes.
Prayers yelled out.
Lots of curses.
Hugs so tight you think you won’t breathe.
Laugher (yes laughter).
Smiles with tears.
Us humans, we are pretty amazing creatures. Resilient, beautiful, flawed, and occasionally horrifying. All the emotions felt, the experiences incorporated, and lessons learned along the way in this beautiful life we are given to live accumulate into each of these imperfect beings resulting in a completely unique life review. We all feel pain, sadness, happiness, and joy. Yet, the outcome, or result, of our cumulative experiences are very specific to us. Death is a certainty for all of us. It is a shared experience, yet one we must travel alone.
After we are born, our first year or two of development is unique compared to our overall life experience. There are things we do for the first time – crawl, walk, talk – that are very specific to this time of life. Similarly, as we are dying we have unique experiences. There are rich lessons to learn from those walking this path to death. They see things with a clarity not often provided. Those that have dedicated themselves to caring for the dying know this. They see it every day with their clients and the bereaved.
Grief has its own lessons to teach. Every day, people around us die. Some know it is coming, others don’t. Some are young, while others are old. It happens to everyone regardless of race, creed and religion. In Western culture, at least for most of us, death is kept from us. Death is hidden away in hospital rooms or in care facilities. It has been medicalized. And so, we have lost touch with the lessons, and the beauty, that comes from that experience. And then when we suffer a loss, we are ill-equipped to deal with the process and grief.
Grief, one wild fucking ride.
It comes in many forms. Grief, as I see it now, ushered me into a new chapter of my life. That burning platform we all seem to need when change is required, but we don’t quite get to the work. There were many times I was seen screaming “let me off!”, while other times I surrendered and let the ride carry me forward.
But for all of us, the only way is through it. As hard as it is. That’s our job when loss falls upon us, to work our way through it (not around it, not over it, not pretend it didn’t happen).
What is normal?
What the heck is normal anything? Normal is what you decide it is. If you need to keep your beloved’s clothes for another 4 months, then keep it. If you need to shed more tears, then cry. If you need to hold on to that story for another month, then hold on to it.
As many books as there is on the subject there is no prescribed how-to handbook. There is no “right” way except your way. There are things you can do before, during and after to help you on this journey. There are things that others have found supported them. But you are allowed to find your own path. And there are people that can support you along your journey.
Have you ever heard: time heals, you’ll get over it, and another similar bad cliché.
People are uncomfortable with emotions, and grief, well, grief is a whole lot of emotions! They feel bad and want to help make you feel better, but can’t seem to find the right words. Of course, all you probably need is someone to listen, to simply be there with you.
All of our stories should be honoured. Our lives matter.
Death is a teacher. Death can be a beautiful teacher.