There are those among us who are leading the way in demonstrating how to break free of society's taboo around death. While most of us might be likely to awkwardly say "your color looks good today" to a dying loved one, someone who has made peace with death would be more likely to take his or her hand and say, "I love you and am going to miss you so much."
For most of us, being around dying and death evokes a visceral response of fear and avoidance. We basically view life as good and death as bad. Our fear makes us contract and respond in fight or flight or freeze mode. We react against death and try to keep it away from us precisely because we have been taught that it is bad. People who have made peace with death have a completely different mindset. They tend to see death as normal as birth and are as open to its wonders and mysteries as they are to those of birth. This doesn't mean that they are exempt from the sorrow and grief of losing a loved one. However, they have learned how to bring their loving, caring, kindness, compassion and even humor to the bedside of the dying.
Next time you find yourself in the presence of a dying loved one while hiding your tears and
sorrow behind a fragile masked smile, consider the following keys to how people who have made peace with death behave:
- See death as normal. Rather than seeing death as something awful to be avoided at all cost, see if you can shift your thinking by exploring the fact that while death is inescapable, our attitudes and beliefs about death are actually quite negotiable. Challenge yourself to break free of giving death such a bad rap. If you believe in God, consider the fact that God was not suffering a loss of intelligence and simply having a bad day when conceiving of death as essential to the human experience.
"I wish you would not be afraid to speak to me about what is going on in my life, and to ask what you can do to help. If I cry or get emotional when we talk about them, I wish you knew that it isn't because you have hurt me. The fact that I have suffered has caused my tears ... I wish you wouldn't pretend that nothing is happening to me, because it is a large part of my life. I need my friends and family by my side ... I wish you wouldn't think that if I have a good day, my grief is over, or that if I have a bad day, I need psychiatric counselling. Grieving and what I'm going through is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn't shy away from me. I wish you knew that all of the "crazy" grief reactions I am having are in fact very normal. Depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and questioning of values and beliefs are to be expected during and following what is happening to me. I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be over if and when I appear to be smiling or happy. I wish you would understand the physical reactions to grief. I may gain weight or lose weight ... sleep all the time or not at all ... want to surround myself with business or be all alone, all of which may be related to my grief ... Please don't try to coerce me into being cheerful or tell me that it will be better soon ... I wish you would not offer me drinks or drugs to ease the pain. These are just temporary crutches. The only way I can get through this grief is to experience it, and sometimes immerse myself in it. I have to hurt before I can heal. I wish you understood that grief and difficult situations change people. I am not the same person I was before I experienced it nor will I ever be that person again ...
To read the full text go to: http://community.opentohope.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=107#p190
It is entirely up to each and every one of us whether we stay frozen in fear in the face of dying, death and bereavement or break free and make peace with the normalcy of death. I invite you to try some of the suggestions given above and to share other ideas through comments below.
For more by Judith Johnson, click here.
For more on death and dying, click here.
My other posts on the topic of dying and death include:
Please retweet this post, share it on Facebook or email it to friends who may enjoy it.
To learn more about me, visit my website, www.judithjohnson.com For information on my future blogs, click "Fan" at the top of this page.