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I’ve seen it too much this past week. Death is an inevitable event that we refuse to think about until we have to face it on a personal level. And now, after the Vegas shooting, I think we’ve all seen enough.
The perfect interconnectedness of everything on earth is too astounding for me to fathom this being the only form of existence for our soul.
I believe in something greater than our current existence after life, but I know it’s something that cannot be understood conceptually; so like the majority, I try not to fret over it.
Now that it’s hitting close to home, it feels impossible to think about topics other than death, loss, and grieving.
In terms of dealing with loss, I’ve read of cultures that view death as our soul’s release from the physical confinement we’re in while alive. When it comes to those who live in agony, I can bring myself to feel peace for the sufferer’s release from a hell on earth. A simpler way to phrase this ideology is with words we’ve all heard before: she’s in a better place.
That thought is easier to soothe you when it’s not your child that died too young, a parent taken too soon, a sibling gone too early.
When it hits you close to home, there are no words to help you cope. How can you believe in their ‘release’ from life when you feel they’ve been robbed of their opportunity to live it? How can you feel motivated to continue when the pain of losing someone is absolutely crippling?
I witnessed a group of friends get hit hard with two deaths in 24 hours. No one knew what to do. No one knew what to say. All anyone could do was be there, together. They became a family exhibiting their purest form of love and support for one another. Despite being in the midst of so much sadness, seeing their raw love for one another was a heartwarming illustration of friendship, and the best part of being alive – love and community.
There is a noticeably consistent theme in the air with death and trauma. A common sentence muddled by most in aftermath of a wake is, “why did it have to take something like THIS to bring us together again?”
Tom Laughlin is an actor turned psychologist who specializes in working with people diagnosed with cancer. Below is Steven Pressfield’s rendition from one of Laughlin’s workshops (taken from Pressfield’s best-seller, War of Art):
“The moment a person learns he’s got terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place in his psyche. At one stroke in the doctor’s office, he becomes aware of what really matters to him. Things that sixty seconds earlier had seemed all-important suddenly appear meaningless, while people and concerns that he had till then dismissed at once take on supreme importance.
Maybe, he realizes, working this weekend on that big deal at the office isn’t that vital. Maybe it’s more important to fly cross-country for his grandson’s graduation. Maybe it isn’t so crucial that he have the last word in the fight with his wife. Maybe instead he should tell her how much she means to him and how deeply he has always loved her.
Other thoughts occur to the patient diagnosed. What about that gift he had for music? What became of the passion he once felt to work with the sick and homeless? Why do these unlived lives return with such power and poignancy?”
Tom Laughlin’s foundation helps battle cancer by counseling clients to live their unlived lives, and miraculously, cancers go into remission time and time again.
But what about those that we feel are robbed way too soon? Those that weren’t seemingly suffering through a dark life on earth, those that were taken in a flash before they had the opportunity to give life a shot, those who we regret not fully appreciating…
When facing a loss, death can’t make rational sense- it’s too horrible. All that death can make complete sense of, is what’s unequivocally important for those who still have the opportunity to live their best life here.
If death shows you anything, let it show you what holds value in your heart.
When death lets you in on that secret, hold onto it. It’s a glimmer into a greater state of existence, and now you have the opportunity to grasp it. Write it down, tattoo it on your body, do what you need to do to never lose sight of what your eyes were opened up to in a time of trauma.
Become what you would be if your life could be taken from you at any moment because the harsh truth is that life can be taken from you in a flash. Let your witness of death show you how to be alive, and if anything, live your best life in reverence for those who you lost too soon.