I work with death and dying and write about death and dying. I also talk about death and dying. Why? While it provides interesting conversation, at least to me__ and I do realize this is not the case for everyone__ it is so much more than that. It is a powerful way for me to be aware of the experience of aliveness. Contemplating death helps me feel the preciousness of life. The contrast of death next to life infuses the moment with clarity. This awareness keeps me from being spaced out, from being ignorant, and from being a checked out zombie__which part of me is apparently always ready to do.
In contemplating death, I have realized that our “big death” is not the only one. We experience dozens of little deaths every day. Little deaths such as: sending the kids off to school, completing a book, finishing a meal with a good friend, and entering the unknown when we go to sleep. These are small endings that we notice, but they don’t necessarily bother us.
Then there are the little deaths that do bother us, and these are what I want to write about today. We have our feelings hurt or don’t feel listened to. We have a conversation with a parent with dementia or find our caregiver is sick and can’t relieve us, and we feel overwhelmed and unsupported. We often don’t allow ourselves to notice these: we dismiss them from our awareness. We don’t want to feel the hurt. But we do. Perhaps our fear kicks in. We’ve just finished a difficult conversation with a loved one, and are not sure of its ripple effect on our lives. We’re afraid of losing our job, or the impact of the economy on our lives. Our body is changing, and it frightens us. Our response to these difficult little deaths matter because when we disconnect from our disturbance, we disconnect from our aliveness and from being present in the moment.
What do we do now? We can realize that we always have a choice. These are deaths that we can respond to by closing down or opening up. We close down by freezing, making up a story, building a fantasy, or cutting off from the relationship. When we open up, we acknowledge we feel lost and don’t know what to do. We admit we are scared. We acknowledge that we don’t really want to go numb, in that zombie way. We actually want to feel the heat of our aliveness. We can choose to harden to our pain. Or, we can choose to allow our pain and fear to soften us.
Reva Tift M.A. Advance Health Care Directives
~ Consultations for the End of Life Care
© Copyright 2014 Reva Tift, Director Advance Health Directive Guidance