Discussing death is extremely difficult for most people and viewed as the elephant in the room in many cultures. Yet, beyond birth it is the only thing we will all encounter and eventually experience. Yet, we are not only reluctant but often flatly refuse to discuss or learn more about it until the inevitable happens to us. If we are at least somewhat prepared it helps. Some people say it is just too depressing to even think about and so they choose to avoid the topic entirely until a friend or family member is involved and they must face it head on. Then the questions and fear starts in their minds, ‘How do I handle these emotions? Will I ever get over it? What’s wrong with me? Is it normal to feel this way? I feel tired and depressed all the time.’
Unfortunately, in American culture the ‘average’ amount of time the outside world is comfortable with our grief is two to three weeks. After that we are on our own. People start to avoid us because they can see we are in emotional pain and it makes them uncomfortable. It is sad that after a death, when we need people more than ever to just sit with us and allow us to talk about our loved one, yet again, they are not there. Frequently we may hear people say, ‘I just don’t know what to say and I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing so I just can’t visit.’ It’s not about words. It’s about caring, your physical presence…it really is about listening and giving people your love and energy to make it through another day.
I have experienced the tragic death of my son, many family members and dear friends. I have lived the saying, “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I would climb right up to heaven and bring you home again.” I know how loss feels.
Now I volunteer for a ‘not for profit’ Hospice organization. Doing so I have had the opportunity to see a range of emotional responses to the impending death of a loved one. What has surprised me is that even when Hospice becomes involved often the family members still do not want to ‘go there’ to discuss the inevitable. Avoidance can be life altering – and freeze you in time.
That’s why I wrote my story on the topic of loss. It was my way to try to help people, who have experienced the death of someone close to them, understand that handling death is a process – a long and arduous journey – but one in which peace and acceptance can eventually be achieved. Hearing from a kindred spirit can give us confidence that eventually we will survive, even though we feel we have a hole in our hearts that will never heal.
I have been fortunate to receive emails from many people who have read my book. I am grateful to each and every one of you who took the time to respond. Recently, I have had two nurses contact me after reading it. Since both have experienced death in their own families as well as in the medical profession, I was particularly moved when they also took the time to write to me. A quote from one of them said:
“Anyone who has ever lost a loved one really needs to read Mary’s book, “Just Behind the Door.” It’s raw, it’s honest and one of the very best I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a TON of them.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one please consider
reading the book and then pass it on. When we help a fellow traveler along the way we help ourselves and that is what life is all about. As hard as it is to accept at times, ‘All is as it should be.’
Have a great few days!