By Robyn M Fritz MA MBA CHt
Abstract: Our culture fears death, which makes its inevitability harder and adds to the trauma suffered by the dying and their surviving loved ones. A solution is to create a culture that acknowledges death by establishing rituals and customs that recognize and honor a life cycle that begins at birth and continues into death and the afterlife.
While death frequently takes us by surprise, creating a culture that acknowledges its inevitability offers mind, body, and spirit support to both the dying and their grieving survivors. What could it look like to live healthy, balanced, intuitive lives that recognize they will end?
Gratitude and Previewing Goodbye
It may seem trite, and even a predictable run-around, but it really does help to practice gratitude every day for every little thing that goes well—or is at least all right, or just plain over. Gratitude doesn’t mean everything is rosy: it simply means that we notice and move on. Acknowledging the simple, benign details gets us through the days—and to the far side of grief after a death occurs.
Gratitude includes appreciating those who are in our lives, even if they occasionally, or usually, aggravate us, because, hello, human! Make sure you always let your beloveds know you appreciate and will miss them when you die, even if you’re just fine, because you never know.
I learned this as a kid from my dad’s parents. After every annual visit they made a point of saying, “We’re getting older and may die before we see you again, so know that we love you.” I used to giggle at this quirky ritual: I didn’t know what to make of it, and it made me uncomfortable. Then my brother died unexpectedly, followed by several beloved adults, and I realized that my grandparents were crazy smart to say their goodbyes in person. As it turned out, they both died when I wasn’t around, and all I got was a funeral—and the memories of those savvy childhood farewells. So please, say goodbye before you can’t, and encourage your beloveds to do the same thing.
How We Can Acknowledge Death
So how do we create a culture that acknowledges death?
A Mexican tradition that has its roots in pre-Hispanic history is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated between October 31 and November 2, the days that also lump together Halloween and the Christian holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. During the Day of the Dead celebration people invite their dead back to be remembered and honored, thus keeping them part of the community.
Great idea, right? Each country could build on that concept by declaring a national holiday that celebrates life and death with our living and dead beloveds. A declared holiday can create a cultural tradition in the same way that Christmas is an international tradition and the Fourth of July an American one. This holiday could free people from the religious connotations surrounding death and help us have a better relationship with it, even normalize it, instead of ignoring it or shutting it away in hospice.
What could it look like? A day off from work, a family and friends gathering, a nice meal with a place set for everyone, including the dead, and a simple ritual to say hello and goodbye. It would take the time—an entire day in our over-packed lives—to acknowledge death as part of life, honor our dead, and celebrate our mortality while contemplating what we, the living, still want to accomplish. Yes, imagine the Day of the Dead, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and life coaching all rolled into one holiday where we preview goodbye while relishing the time we still have together.
I’m completely serious. As a medium I meet many of the stuck dead, people who have died but have not gone on to their afterlives, either because they’re not ready, or they’re holding themselves back for any number of reasons. Even if they have gone on to their afterlives, many of the dead didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones, so both sides have a harder time getting closure and moving on. It’s why many people seek out mediums in the first place.
Losing beloveds is never easy. If we made recognizing the fragility of life part of our operating philosophy, then when death occurs, especially if it takes us by surprise, we would at least remember that we previewed goodbye. I’ve done this with my own beloveds, human and animal. I swear it works.
Robyn M Fritz MA MBA CHt hosts the OM Times radio show, “The Practical Intuitive: Mind Body Spirit for the Real World.” An intuitive and spiritual consultant and certified past life regression specialist, she is an award-winning author whose next book is “The Afterlife Is a Party: What People and Animals Teach Us About Love, Reincarnation, and the Other Side.” Find her at RobynFritz.com.