2016 may have been kinder than we think…
A dear friend and colleague who works in end-of-life care, Jane Duncan Rogers of www.giftedbygrief.com , wrote to share that she lost a long-time friend a couple of days ago.
Yep another one in 2016.
Jane is no stranger to loss, as she is the author of the international best seller of the same name as her site, Gifted By Grief. It is the story of the death of her husband of 20 years, Phillip, and her experience of grief – the raw and the unscripted hell and gifts she found there.
She also offers a course called “Before I Go, The Important Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die”. She is a grief coach, counselor, speaker/author on the topic and yet…
Jane knows of what she speaks, so you would think that having studied it and lived it, that she has a leg up on grief, or a secret way to banish it. Perhaps Jane and those of us working in this death and loss space for a living would have it figured out.
But we do have one skill that others might not have.
More on that in a minute.
The reason I mention all this is to say that no matter what, when death, grief or loss hits any one of us, it can feel like we’ve entered some rip in a portal for which there may be no return.
There is actual truth to this, because the return to “pre-grief” status is not an option.
“2016 has been a BITCH”, lamented one dear friend of mine.
Most of us would avoid a bitch at all costs, for sure. But, amid the chaos and shrill unpleasantness, don’t rule out wisdom. 2016 has been loud, messy and bitchy for sure– but if we are brave enough to go there, what else can we see?
I met Jane’s friend Tony, briefly in her online course that I took last year. He was a fine fellow, and we exchanged a few pleasantries during the course– but that is about it. I wrote to Jane to share that I could see how much Tony’s friendship and long-time connection impacted her. I told her that my only wish was that I had maybe taken some more time to know him better.
I suppose that’s always the wish when somebody dies unexpectedly. We always think there’s more time.
Another dear friend, Sherry Belul, of Simply Celebrate has a mantra that is a nugget in wisdom wrapping. “Say it Now”, is what Sherry inspires us to do, while celebrating the everyday awe that surrounds us. I think that is so perfect. Because we never know when we or another will go, do we?
People are talking about how many celebrities and loved ones that 2016 “took”.
Many are so sad, and many more are steaming mad!
I wonder if as a result, people will start to talk more openly about death–it seems like 2016 forced us to.
Maybe in that respect, 2016 was kinder than we thought.
Talking is always good, right?
Perhaps 2016 was just a rolling reminder that death after death gave to us – urging us, pleading with us to be more connected, less bitter and more open to life’s mysteries and tragedies.
Because when tragedy strikes and grief comes, and they surely will, we are initiated over and over again to open to “what is”.
Ironically that is how the brain learns – it loves repetition.
No fair, but life is advanced citizenship.
It calls us to embrace the tough parts, open to what we think we cannot, and connect even more.
Isn’t that what death makes us do….connect more?
Think funerals, wakes and bringing food and comfort = connection.
It makes us pause, if only for a moment.
We can build a kind of whole-hearted resilience through death and perhaps we will suffer less as a result.
It reminds me of how martial artists teach their students to use their opponents momentum coming at them as leverage. It could seem scary, but the skill, once learned (and practiced), can transform that energy into a force that protects us and is good. Who knew, 2016 may have been a kind of “death school” for all of us?
Now, that’s leverage.
The key is that we have to engage it first, look it in the eye.
That’s the tricky part – engaging with death first.
The impulse might be to look away…don’t.
Hold its gaze…softly
That’s where I think 2016 might have been kinder than we thought, with one tiny reframe;
Sometimes the universe does for us, what we are
unwilling or unable to do for ourselves.
2016 forced us with every death to look at our connections, and our lives.
I’m also referring to the non-physical deaths and losses as well.
Whether it was Brexit, Syria, the US election or any issue on a global scale… Then add in your own personal losses.
2016 kept on giving.
The only antidote I know of is more connection, less division.
Resistance is futile.
Death, like nature, will have its way with us.
It is how we respond that matters.
No rest to for the weary.
I had my share of personal losses in 2016, and I thought I was done.
Then the day before New Years Eve, the way I said goodbye to 2016 was to spend the day in the Emergency Room.
I had an attack of diverticulitis, come to find out…
A first visit for me as an adult to the ER.
Right next to me were a few trauma victims who came in, and may not have left alive.
Death was literally lurking all around me, right beside me.
The import of it was not lost on me.
I no longer want to keep death at bay.
Why would I want to keep a teacher like death at arm’s length?
But I also have no plans to hasten it, for sure!
The way I deal, is just to get more curious about the mysteries it holds.
There is no sense or purpose in getting pissed at death, because it will come when it does. Personally I believe there’s a fantastic voyage and adventure afterwards. In a way, I can say I am looking forward, but not anytime soon – though I have no real illusion of control. Just have a lot of stuff to do yet 😉
We all have a “how” and “when” death will happen.
Some may know our “how” (a diagnosis? But even then…).
And we all have a “when”.
For the most part, none of us know our “when”.
In end-of-life care, we honor every single breath, to the very last one.
Oh, and that skill I mentioned earlier….
Sitting with it all.
The pain, the sadness, the triumphs, the grief, the beauty–
sitting with it all, just one moment longer than you think you can.
It won’t kill you, 😉 and you’ll feel different on the other side of that.
Tired, yes – but you will open to a greater capacity for kindness, empathy, intimacy, connection, and dare I say…joy.
If you are familiar with the work of Glennon Doyle Melton on her blog or her most recent book, Love Warrior – she makes up a perfect word for this.
Brutal and beautiful.
It is the inexplicable experience of two opposing thoughts occupying the same excruciating space at the same improbable time.
Cognitive dissonance at its most glorious.
I’m very grateful to be able to see what 2017 holds.
I suppose if we are here, we still have work to do.
So perhaps we should get at it!
Looking forward to hanging with you all in 2017.
Hope this new year is all that you wish and more!!