What if death, whether it’s losing a job/relationship or being put in a casket, wasn’t a badthing? What if we chose to view and talk about death in a positive way? What if we saw death as natural and part of life? What if it we thought of it more as a transition? I don’t know about you, but in my journey I’ve found attitudes of fear and negativity (our usual stance toward death) generally don’t lead to health and vitality. Conversely, picking positivity and acceptance does! With that in mind, this is part 2 in a series of blogs I’m doing to get us talking about, thinking on, and engaging death in a life-giving way.
You can check out the first blog here: https://gracenpeaceyoga.com/2019/05/17/how-the-way-we-approach-death-is-killing-us-lets-talk-about-death-part-1/
Let me start by saying when I say “death”, I’m getting at both when we breathe our last breath, and all the numerous other deaths we experience during life. I think anytime we transition, “lose”, let go, and such in life, we undergo micro-deaths. This could be graduating, getting married, becoming single, moving, gaining a job, losing a job, kicking an addiction, getting a major illness or injury, changing your diet, retiring, changing beliefs, embracing/leaving a religion, or any other life-change involving leaving something/somewhere/someone.
In the last blog, I talked a bit about the West’s usual approach toward death, which is a Death Negative Approach that’s characterized by fear, denial, and avoidance. Today, though, I’d like us to discuss a Death Positive Approach, which is marked by love, acceptance, and open and honest conversations.
If there’s one thing I’m growing to trust in life, from my own journey and the wisdom of numerous people, it’s that on the other side of death, in all its forms, lies life, thriving and flourishing life … especially when we embrace the dying with acceptance, grief, celebration, and love. Jesus names this death and resurrection. Author Glennon Doyle talks about first the falling and then the rising. Writer Brené Brown writes about how we rise strong, after we first reckon and rumble.
As I pondered what to write next and make this applicable, three things came to me:
Death is natural.
Death is the fertile soil from which we transform like a phoenix rising from its ashes. To embrace the joyous new life of getting married, for instance, we have to leave behind being single. In a similar way, losing, failing, and falling are beautiful experiences for teaching us what matters most in life (like connection, community, kindness, and compassion), which leads to a richer and more joyous existence.
On that topic, I can honestly say the lengthy and gut-wrenching path to my first divorce was one of the biggest blessings in my life. This death opened my eyes to how selfish I naively was, how clueless I was to the power and importance our stories have in forming us, and how damaging some worldview/beliefs I had then were. The divorce was the fuel that drove me to a place of immense growth and transformation, making me far more compassionate, kind, and caring than I ever thought possible.
(Me and my phoenix tattoo as a reminder of the life after death)
Death leads us to a space of remembrance, which allows the spirit of ____ to live on. For instance, one of my grandmas died more than a decade ago. Yet, her jolly spirit, warm embrace, and playfulness live on in me, my sister, my mom, my aunt, etc., and by extension in everyone we come into contact with. It seems to me that by her passing and living on through, and in, countless others, my grandma became more … and I think the same can be true for all our deaths.
Is there sorrow mixed in with remembering Marge? Absolutely! But grief is GOOD. What is more, there is also a sweetness, tenderness, and delight in remembering her. ALL of these are gifts we don’t receive when we avoid death.
Death is natural; it’s part of the rhythm of life. Winter’s decay alwaysprecedes spring’s new life. In my Christian tradition we often think of Death as an enemy, if not the foremost enemy. Yet, Jesus tells us to LOVE OUR ENEMIES. Within the Land of Love fear does NOT have a home, but joy and peace DO, so let’s love death to death!!!
Death isn’t bad, and neither is life. Let’s embrace both! What do you think about a Death Positive Approach? What would you add?
Grace and peace,