When people bring up the topic of death or dying, it typically brings one of two reactions:
- “Oh no, what have I just got myself into – I am super uncomfortable with this topic – someone please save me! I am not good at handling this topic.”
- “My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family. I hope you make it through this tough time. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know”
Both reactions are perfectly normal and common. This is a very sensitive topic that not many people are familiar with nor know how to handle. After having my mom, best friend, and sister lose their lives, I have gained some clarity on this topic. I know from experience that everyone who said “if you need something let me know” I never actually held them to it. I also lost friendships over the people who were close to me but didn’t support me effectively through my loss.
My motive is to equip you with two lessons that I have learned about death during the past 10 years of my life.
I have a two lessons:
Give the person you are speaking with permission to grieve. Never allow them to apologize for crying or being upset. By allowing them to apologize, they are convincing their subconcious that they are doing something wrong.
We only apologize for bad or wrong behavior, so interupt that pattern of apology by asking them – “What are you apologizing for?” – typical responses:
“I apologize for bringing this up, crying, putting this on you, making you listen, bringing down the mood, I dont know” — Whatever story they have in their head, you want to re-write it! How?
You want to explain to them that it is not weak to cry, it’s courageous! We watch people cry with envy wishing that we were brave enough to expose our emotions like them. When it’s time for us to cry, we feel weak and try to apologize for it. People need words of affirmations from you that crying is neccessary and an act of courage.
You want to explain that those who will empathize with you will also support you. They will understand the pain of your loss and will be able to learn from your courage. Tell them that their circumstances will pave the way for those around them because death is inevitable. We all will experience this. Thank them for the chance to personally grow and become more conciously aware of the meaning of life and death.
Encourage the person you are speaking with to choose the story they tell themselves. The biggest trigger of emotion for me was thinking about everything that my loved ones were going to miss out on in my life – my wedding, graduation, my 21st birthday, first born child, etc. By thinking about everything they will miss in my life, I was trapped in a cycle of negative emotion and an emotion that was not advantageous. We have a lot of control over what we think and taking ownership of those thoughts can be challenging. By redirecting the focus through questions, you can unlock a beautiful gift for the person you are speaking with or for yourself.
A few focus questions:
- What are some lessons you have learned from ______ that you can share with me?
- What are some of your favorite memories with _____?
- What is a specific moment that you will cherish and keep as a gift for the rest of your life?
- What was _____ involved in that he or she would want you to continue working on in order to leave a legacy for them?
Please share these lessons with anyone who is having trouble with death or losing someone. If that someone is you, I wish you the courage to seek guidance and support from those who care and have perspectives that will help you get through your pain. Please do not die with that person, live your live through the lessons that person left you. Be a better you because of that person. Use their legacy as motivation for action.