Bereavement counselling Dublin part 2: An important part of looking at bereavement is looking at ourselves and reconciling that we too will die. It’s hard to accept the death of another if we can’t accept it in our own self.
Death used to be incorporated into our lives in Ireland but, I feel, it is less so today, making death more striking and difficult to process once it appears.
Death is more seen and integrated in the east and with the indigenous peoples of the world, making their journey to acceptance and letting go a little less difficult. For example, when a Buddhist monk died in Thailand he asked for his body to be left at the local train station so people could see that life does end. And some arctic tribes leave their dead on frozen ground to feed animals as part of their mourning process.
In the 1970s, psychologist Irvin Yalom, from his research groups, showed that looking at their own deaths reduced anxiety and brought about changes in their lives. A similar result can happen with a near-death experience. It is only when we really see death close up that we learn to really appreciate life.
Yalom said: ‘The difference between knowing and truly knowing, between the everyday awareness of death we all possess and the full facing of ‘my death’.…we must TRULY accept the anxiety that we will die and the world continues regardless and the universe does not acknowledge one’s specialness. What we want has absolutely nothing to do with it.’
In our lives, we go through ‘small deaths’ as we transition or ‘die’ moving from child to woman, to mother, to elder. Rites of passage ceremonies acknowledge the change and facilitate the moving on to the next phase of life, requiring a letting go of the last one.
Recovering from ‘small deaths’ require us to face death, leading to a rebirth or new life with a more whole self, the same process as psychotherapy.
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