Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dealing with Death

One thing that I haven't delved into much 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 have 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 with facing the reality that we all will lose people in our lives.

The Afterlife and Consolation in this Life
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 sometime after the event. I happened to look out my back window the other day, and I saw a covered body being pushed into the back of a van. Something about the loneliness of that individual being carted away struck me. I wondered how his or her family was being notified and where the body might go.

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 won't 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.

Acceptance and Resistance to Death and Reality
Of course, acceptance is almost always the big hurdle. Because so many people are unable to deal with death, the auto-function of the mind appears to be to run straight into denial. It also shuts down the heart, and that's a terrible thing to do. The pain of that reality will sit in your heart and rot it out over time. Gradually, you'll begin to die emotionally, and that's not healthy to you or anyone around you. You have to accept the reality. You can't resist what's happened by denying it. That's delusional.

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.

Rituals for Death and Passing
I think part of integrating into your heart, body, mind, and soul that someone has passed is ritual. "Doing" something is the way the body can interact with the world. Carrying a coffin and going to a funeral tell a story to the body. Being in motion in this way helps to reinforce in a physical way that this person is gone. Seeing the body also helps. In many ways, grieving properly in Western Society can be a process of breaking mental illusions first just to get to the real grief and the openness of the heart. And there are many rituals that can be done and that are done the world over, which are essential parts of the human experience of grieving and letting go. Finding the right one for yourself or your family is essential.

Long-Held Grief and Denial of Death
However, many people don't find the way to healing that they need. So the loss of a loved one sticks in them like a thorn that gets covered by a callus and by another callus. Reactions upon reactions build up around this event. Losing a loved one becomes a poison that spreads throughout yourself and your life. It can easily rot out your relationships because that pain is still in your heart. Every time someone you feel strongly about comes into your life, you may run away. You may have forgotten why you run away even though intellectually you know that you love or are really interested in this person. Well, that love this other person is activating is right next to that pain. That love activates that pain, so you run away. So you run away from someone who could really love you.

This is just one example. It can show up in any number of ways like being really cold and calculating at work. No one wants to work with you after awhile. The scenarios grow and grow. In effect, you are dying.

From a Higher Perspective
Ultimately, the soul that has moved on from the body and person you once knew wants you to move on too. That soul wants you to be happy and to feel love much like what that soul is now feeling on the spiritual plane, in heaven, or wherever you believe the soul has gone. So souls in the spiritual world get upset when we hold onto them. That attachment doesn't help either of you. At the heart of the matter is love and letting go. Holding on is never love. That's just the ego extending itself to someone else to try and protect an experience that it wants to have in life. Attachment to another is never love. Letting go is love. It's the open-handed approach to life. A closed hand can receive nothing. An open hand receives everything.

So if you're dealing with death in your life, let your hand relax. Let your heart open, and allow yourself to grieve. In letting go, the healing and love that you need will enter your life, and you'll be able to move on in grace and wholeness.
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