My grandmother has just recently suffered a severe stroke from which she will never really recover. I live in Amsterdam and my grandparents and father live in Portugal, so I had to travel to help out and if I could I would seriously consider acting as their live-in caretaker. To me, it seems very simple. They are my grandparents and they helped raise me. Seeing my 90 years old grandfather and my 86 years old grandmother and not so healthy father in this vulnerable stage of life made me realize that death is closer to us than ever before.
I truly felt that caring for someone can be emotionally and physically exhausting, particularly if they’re someone you deeply love. Making sure my grandmother is happy and not feeling lonely means constant awareness. And her never-ending stream of medical attention trips to the doctors and home care is an added pain for all. There were many times when I totally forgot about my own needs and focused entirely on the needs of my family. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. Sure, it was hard, but the experience of unconditional love was so overwhelming it gave me the power to experience this full-time job.
Dealing with my family and the illnesses have made me realize that one thing I haven’t delved into at all is death. It’s hard to believe that I’ve left this topic, mostly untouched, but obviously, that’s about to change. Much of what I’ve written about has been about embracing spirituality and embracing life. We all will come to that place of deepest release where we have to let go of our bodies, but what’s important during the duration of life is to embrace and live our lives as deeply and fully and without fear as possible. That said, dealing with our own death is often less traumatic than dealing with others’ deaths. So let’s start by facing the reality that we all will lose people in our lives. Any child, parent, friend, or other connection you have in this life will die. It’s inevitable. This isn’t a bad thing. So much of our society has gotten stuck in valuing certain types of human experiences over others that we forget that death is normal. But still, death gets stuffed in a box or a jar so fast that most of us don’t realize when someone has passed on for some time after the event.
For most of us in the living, the consolation of knowing that someone has gone to an afterlife or a better place or even dissolved into Nirvana is a way of dealing with the passing of a loved one. It’s never really easy, and so grief is almost always an important part of dealing with death. It’s not that everyone grieves in the same way, but usually, there’s a process of letting go, which is at the Heart of grieving. Crying is just fine, but others may not find their release that way. Nor should they force it. I’ve had some people in my life who’ve lost someone, and they were scared that they should be crying more or be more upset. But as with everything, your deeper intelligence knows how and when it needs to grieve. All you have to do is to allow your process and accept that this person is gone. Still the ego mind loves to create these steel cords of attachment, refusing to let go. In many respects, you can see just how dysfunctional the ego is in these moments because the clear reality is that someone has passed on. The clear reality is that you have to let go. And you can grieve the passing of a dear one with love and openness. In so doing, you can grieve fully and be healed of the loss you feel. I won’t go into the illusion of loss and how we create the attachments that very much cause our pain. While this is true, the common reality for most of us is that to lose a loved one does hurt. And that’s okay. That’s part of the human experience. I think part of integrating into your heart, body, mind, and soul that someone has passed is ritual. And “Doing” something is the way the body can interact with the world.
I once heard the following quote, unfortunately, I cannot recall who said this, ‘’Grief is the most powerful untapped resource for human transformation’’. Grief is an inevitable, universal experience, more commonly experienced than death. So much of life is about loss. Going through life is to endure a series of losses, which include the loss of health, roles, identity, homeland, and loved ones through betrayal or death. Grief is the normal emotional response to loss, a response all too familiar to us. Grieving is the pain of letting go of love. Grieving is also the pain of searching for what has been lost. In the process, we discover something far more precious than we ever knew. Indeed, blessed are the broken-hearted, for they will find healing and transformation.
” When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” Tecumseh