Reflections on death

reflections on deathMy continuing shamanic training has led me to examining death and dying over the last couple of months. Not just the big death, the time when we depart this earth as our life comes to an end, but also the small deaths, the endings of cycles and relationships.

I have been unfortunate enough to lose two of my siblings at what seemed an untimely age. Both died from terminal cancer and therefore in both cases we knew the end was coming.

We are conditioned in Western society to fear death. Sitting beside the bedside of both my brother and sister brought into stark reality the matter of my own mortality, the idea that someday (maybe soon, maybe a long time in the future) I too would meet my end. I remember distinctly the moment, sitting with both of them, when I had my sudden realisation that this could just as easily be me, and I remember being terrified.

Rather than facing this terror and examining just what my thoughts and feelings were about the subject, I chose (as many other people choose) to deny the reality of their death. By denying that they were dying, I could deny that it would also someday happen to me too. I found myself saying things like “there have been some real developments in cancer treatment, we’ll have to look into some alternative ways to treat this”, and as desperation started to set in “I could give you some Reiki, I’ve heard of people going into complete remission after a series of Reiki treatments before”. I remember also that when I said these things a look crossed over their faces, as if my words were puzzling and almost painful to them.

When the inevitable happened, and both passed away, I found I also couldn’t allow myself to grieve. It was almost as if grieving their passing would make my own ending even more real.

Having taken another look at this over the last two months, I have also noticed my reluctance to acknowledge some of the smaller deaths in my life as if shielding myself from some sort of hurt. I have promised to keep in contact with people who I know for a fact I will never see again, and am highly unlikely to stay in touch with. If you were to ask me why I have done this a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue how to answer. I now realise that if I deny an ending I spare myself having to experience grief. I have also been known to avoid forging relationships with people in the first place in order to avoid an inevitable end.

On the flip side, I have also been denied endings. I once found myself in a new relationship and was starting to fall head over heels with the person. One day however they just disappeared out of my life with no word of warning, never to be seen or heard from again. On reflection I now understand why my siblings had looked troubled when I denied them their ending, it hurts when this happens. It kind of leaves you in a limbo state, not knowing whether to grieve, or be angry, or any number of other responses. You feel stuck, almost like you are being held in place by the other person.

Everything in life has a cycle, a beginning, middle and end. We start as a concept, an idea, or potential, we move into actualisation, find ourselves eventually in the time where we see things through … to their final END. Endings are important, and need to be acknowledged. If endings are denied, you are denied the space an ending provides into which you can move forwards in life.

I am lucky enough now to have learnt the tools with which I can go back and honour the once denied endings in my life. Allowing for my held back grief to come forward is challenging but brings its own rewards as the flow of a natural cycle is beginning to be restored.

Here’s to all the people who were once part of my life. I want to say thank you for the time we had together, I am sorry if I in some way caused you pain or grief, and if I neglected to do so at the time, I want to say …