During the last 100 years, says Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, our culture has “pathologized” death by taking it into the hospital. We have done ourselves a real disservice by separating, or “compartmentalizing” death - and endings - away from life; and this has been taking its toll on our society. There is a tremendous focus on and bias toward youth and beauty, not to mention image; and we have become dishonoring of the aging process and the grief process, too, for that matter.
Furthermore, due to the consciousness shift taking place on the planet, the issues of death, change, endings, and transitions have become even more pronounced. In a sense, at this time we are each going through our own transformative Life Review and Letting Go process of one kind or another.
I sometimes say facetiously that it's as if the entire world is On Hospice. And we have so much to learn from those who are going through severe change – like those who are dying, and those who work with the dying. If we can maneuver deep change by letting go of what no longer serves us... I believe this is the Key.
Therefore, let us find new ways to bridge the gap between life and death.
Here are some suggestions I'd suggest to get started:
Since everything starts on the energetic level, you might start by visualizing and praying: Invite death, endings, and grief to become a more natural and friendly part of your life. You might even extend this intention out into your family, community, and the American society at large.
Find places and people in your life where and with whom you can speak more openly about these matters. Since aspects of the entire world is “on hospice” these days and many people are going through all sorts of transitions, it need not be so difficult to find ways to talk creatively about endings, letting go of old ways, beliefs, and the “stuff” no longer serves us. Sharing and expressing the grief that resides in our being these days is so important, too.
For some time now hospices, palliative care programs, and midwives all have been helping to create new avenues to integrate life and death back together again. If there is any way you could support these programs or people, I strongly encourage you to do so. You might consider becoming a volunteer at your local hospice. Hospices are always looking for new volunteers. And personally speaking, I would guarantee that however long your commitment, you will learn so much about yourself and be transformed by such an experience that you will never regret it. It’s a wonderful investment in yourself and your future. See my most recent book, The Most Important Day of Your Life: Are You Ready? to read more about the gifts that I have received through the last twenty years of hospice ministry.
I invite you to reach out in new and courageous ways to someone in your life who’s going through a transition of some kind. You could begin by praying for them or asking them how you could support them. Consider this a learning opportunity for yourself and see how you might grow from a situation you normally would avoid or choose not get involved in. See yourself being transformed by a new experience!
In the end, the most important thing for us to do in our “death denying culture” is to start communicating with others about it. Especially if you have someone in your family who’s moving through the experience of a serious illness or some kind of threat to their life, it may be a very kind gesture to open up the conversation, at least to see if they might like to speak about it. Who’s to say that by opening up the dialogue, you might even have the most enlightening and important conversation of your life?
By the way, there’s an organization that began in 2010 in the United Kingdom that’s taking hold around the world these days. It’s called the Death Cafe. This is an organization that helps to create space where people can go to have open discussions on all aspects around death and dying.
The idea is to gather people together who are interested in speaking about death and let them share tea and cake - goodies - along with conversation. Anyone interested can start a Death Cafe; and they are sprouting up around the world, literally. You can see more at this link.
These are just a few pointers for you to begin thinking in ways that might help you begin a process of transformation with courage at this time. Clearly, change is needed and stands knocking at our doorsteps. I encourage us all to open the door and welcome change in.
Also, please let me know other ideas you might have along these lines, to help bring death, and endings, back into our lives - where they belong.
Rev. Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund is an author, transformational energy healer, U.C.C. Minister, spiritual counselor who honors the body-mind-spirit holistic approach. She resides in the Olympia, WA area and writes on topics related to end-of-life, transitions, conscious living & dying, and grief. For more, see: www.changewithcourage.com, www.runningthebars.com, and www.soulbaskets.com