As I spend time with my in-laws in anticipation of the memorial service for my wife’s father, I get to look at death up-close once again. In this case I am closer to the periphery of the event of his passing, but not far from those whom it has most closely effected.
On the one hand, death is death. It is part of any major life transition. Parts of our experience and our ‘self’ must end in order to be transformed into who we are becoming and what that person will experience differently. If we are to grow, elements of who we no longer are must be released.
We are surrounded by death all the time. We relocate our homes, our relationships break up, children grow up, the leaves fall off the trees, we change jobs, it gets harder to stay up as late as we used to in college.
On the other hand, obviously, the loss of a loved one in no way compares with needing to get a new car or losing a lot of weight. It would be ridiculous to suggest to someone who just experienced the devastation of losing her husband of over 50 years that it is essentially the same. It’s not.
I do think, however, the rest of us could benefit from considering the possibility that those less literal, and personal, and catastrophic versions of death are, often times, a bit more like the “real thing” than we tend to assume. By that I mean:
With significant change comes loss, and that means facing grief, fear, and the unknown.
Even if no one has actually died. Even if the death is purely metaphorical. I have to remind the people I work with of this on a regular basis.
It’s just so easy to underestimate; more so for the Spiritual seeker. Since we are focused on growth, change – and therefore death (and birth for that matter) – will be our constant companion. If this isn’t fully respected, we can miss the cues that are directing us toward the need for acceptance, letting go, or mourning. We tell ourselves “it’s no big deal,” and the transition remains incomplete.
This also puts us at risk of unconsciously responding out of habit to new and unfamiliar circumstances. The need to control and know where things are headed hijacks our ability to be open to the rebirth on the other side of the dying process.
Let me give you an example of this kind of thing where you might not expect to find it:
Christine experienced a significant influx of money. Since it was good news, it didn’t occur to her that she might have to attend to the passing of her money-worry consciousness. Since she wasn’t thinking in terms of the death and rebirth cycle, she overlooked the opportunity to fully transition. She missed the signs that her habitual anxiety about lack didn’t get the chance to transform, to match her new life. So instead, it just reformed as anxiety about having to protect her wealth. Rather than experiencing liberation, Christine just felt like now she had something to lose. Without realizing it, she had chosen to forego the growth opportunity. Only her circumstances changed; her obsolete sense of self had been retained.
We are hesitant to face the New even when it appears desirable. And we are often unwilling to reflect on the past and face our fears and limitations, even if it’s in order to move on from them. Loss is usually painful. Death is death.
This is the kind of Spiritual transition that I help people navigate. If your Spirit is prompting you to have a conversation like this, I encourage you to get in touch with me.