Is Death The Meaning of Life?

I was listening to a podcast and heard an end of life doula say something she felt was very profound…that “death is the meaning of life”.


I’ve heard it before. It’s not new. But today was the first day I actually stopped to think about what it meant. And is it true?


Death as The Meaning of Life?


Explain this to me, because I don’t understand how Death is the Meaning of life. Does it really mean death gives life meaning? Cuz that I could KINDA understand. But death AS the meaning of life? No. That doesn’t make sense.


Death is the meaning of life. No, sorry. I don’t think so.


But it is true that life would have no meaning without death. The finiteness of life is what causes us to not take it for granted and when you don’t take something for granted you tend to find meaning in it.


Birth and death act as a container for life. “You have this moment called life and we mark it at birth here and at death here.” Life is not just what happens in between those points, but it includes those points as well.


It is because of that container, that finite space, that as humans we believe we must fill that container with meaning. So in that respect I can see how someone can think that death is the meaning of life. But only if they are talking about death creating the need for meaning in life.


Speaking of Finding Meaning in Life


Here’s one of the most primal existential questions of all…


Where does the need to find meaning in life come from? Why do we as humans feel the need to have our lives make sense? Or to mean something?

We are existential beings. Spiritual beings having the experience of being human. I used to think we were human beings having spiritual experiences, but that shifted as I aged and my perspectives changed.


Because one’s Soul or Spirit is immortal, it makes sense that it is the Soul that has a Human Body not a Human Body that has a Soul. The two together: human body and Soul make up the Human Being. Thus we are Spirit having the experience of being human.


This is where I think the need to find meaning comes.


I think it is the Soul that sets the agenda for the lifetime and it is the Soul that prods and urges the Human Body -cuz the mind is part of the body, right?-to find the meaning in life. It is in the place of meaning that the Human Body intersects and integrates with its Soul.


Now where does the need for meaning in life stem from if one is Humanist for instance? Or Atheist? That is a great question. One I cannot answer since I wear the goggles of Spirituality, so I will open up the floor to any Humanist or Atheist who would like to come on to discuss that very thing. We could do a YouTube interview!


While I think WHERE one surmises the prodding comes from might be different depending on religious, philosophical and cultural views, I think the meaning of life is the same for everyone.

The Meaning of Life According To Me


You all are going to think this is corny as hell and trite and maybe even cliche´ but I’ve thought about this for a very long time.

Death causes us to appreciate Life, by making it limited in time, Death makes Life more valuable. Something to be cherished and embraced. Thus Death gives life meaning, but is not the meaning of life.


The meaning of life is Love.

That’s it. That is the meaning of life…to explore all the aspects and wonders and powers that love holds in its many forms. And it would take several lifetimes to explore all the aspects of love, don’t you think? I mean there are self-love lessons, love of community lessons, romantic love lessons, love of others lessons, love as a healer lessons etc. etc etc

Everything boils down to experiences of love. How to love in the most challenging of circumstances. How to love yourself. How to love someone who’s hurt you. How to love unconditionally.


Love in the face of fear. Love in the face of hate. Love.


The whole point of life is love. To create and develop a life filled with love and then that love multiplies to others.


Love Is Simple But Not Easy


When someone does something unloving towards us, it’s hard to imagine feeling loving towards them. Yet when we are in our pain and we lash out at another, we often want that person to understand where we were coming from. We want them to show us compassion. And compassion is just another word for love.


So, why not start the trend of sending love to someone who has treated you unlovingly? You don’t have to date them. Or even engage with them. All you need do is take a minute to get yourself connected to Source, allow your heart to fill then send the overflow to that person who treated you unlovingly.


You won’t likely know whether or not this affects change in that person, though metaphysically speaking I can tell you a change happens, but a more significant change happens within your own self. It won’t just be a mindset shift, but an energetic shift as well. And what happens when you create an energetic shift is that everything energetic around you is shifted too. It is a true ripple effect because all energy is connected in this Universe. Just like all the water in an ocean is connected.


When you affect one part you are affecting the whole thing.


I lived the first half of my life thinking I needed to earn love. That I needed to do something to deserve it. That I needed to MAKE people love me. And That it was a commodity that could be and would be rationed, doled out, and withdrawn at another’s discretion.


I was a passive participant in love. I begged people to love me and when people loved me whom I didn’t beg, then I didn’t value it. If someone loved me easily, then “It didn’t count”, somehow.
What I now know is love is infinite. Love is abundant and I – yes I in big bold capital letter I- am the Source of it. Love starts with ME. I don’t wait for love to happen, I just love.


Is it easy? NO. I still struggle, for instance, with trying to send love to my ex-husband’s “widow” who married him 21 days before he died with brain cancer, who stole my daughter and step-daughter’s house and inheritance, who tied me up in court for years costing me tens of thousands in legal fees, who hasn’t returned my possessions that my ex was keeping for me, etc… I am still struggling with that. I am angry. I am hurt. But every day that I think about the situation and her I put effort into connecting to Source and sending her love. If I can help her be a better person to someone else down the road then I feel it is my duty.

BUT DAMMIT TO HELL IT IS A CHALLENGE!


The thing is I feel better after spending that time sending her love, than I do when I spent the same amount of time stewing and cursing her existence. I feel better. Again, capital bold face I.
Know what else happened? When I started doing that, I stopped thinking about her and the situation every day. Now it can actually be a month before I think about the things she stole from me and my family.

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places


I wasted so much time, looking for love in all the wrong places. Searching for it in the eyes of men, of my family members, of my friends, of my elders. Always seeking for it outside myself.
What I found instead was a lot of rejection. I was basing my value on how many people really loved me, but because I kept associating with people who treated love as a commodity I never experienced real love at all. And instead of looking at those people as the reason they didn’t love me, I deemed myself unloveable for many years.


This self-imposed unloveable label only served to further drive home the narrative that I was incomplete, inept and ineligible for love. And that energy kept drawing more of those same kind of people to me. And it kept me in a loveless marriage. After all, if I could just fix myself to be lovable then all the pieces that I had gathered would suddenly fall into place.


Instead, I had to realize that I had collected pieces that weren’t even part of the puzzle I was putting together. It was never going to work with those pieces.


Loving myself enough to start over, start from scratch and start with me, made all the difference in the world. That’s when life started changing. First just the way I saw things changed, then I changed, and then slowly, one by one, things in my life started changing.


Death Creates an Urgency


Without death, there would be nothing to compel members to find meaning in life, because they would literally have all the time in the world. There would be no last chances, last dances or last words. There would be no good-byes. No ‘see you laters’. There would just be an endlessness of everything. There would be no container.


Love is the meaning of life AND love gives life meaning. All the love in the world won’t matter though if you don’t love yourself first, because you won’t be able to recognize love from anyone else if you don’t establish the standard with your own self-love.


And what would love be like with no death, I wonder? Would the absence of death change the experience of love at all? I think it would. At least for those widows/widowers who went on to find love again. Could people remain with the same spouse for all eternity on Earth?


No. Death is an important part of life on Earth. It is a necessary part of the cycle of life and needs to be revered as such, not denied. I haven’t figured out all the mysteries of life, for sure, but I’m certain of this. There is a purpose for every being and event in life. We may not know what that purpose is until long after we’ve crossed the veil, but I do believe we will one day discover it.


Death Lends Perspective


The finiteness of Life lends perspective. When we contemplate death we often can put things into a different perspective simply by asking ourselves how we will feel about this moment when we are on our deathbed.


Many years ago, after having worked in hospice for a number of years, I started to end each day asking myself how I would feel about it on my deathbed. Would this day matter? Would I even remember it? Will I be proud or have regrets? This afforded me the opportunity to begin to live differently thereby changing the circumstances of my own death no matter how many years or decades yet to come.


This, I discovered, is the secret to a ‘good death’. It isn’t where you die, or who you die with or without; who’s in the room, who’s not; if there are candles lit or music playing. It won’t even matter if you die being struck by a semi-tractor trailer at age 35 or die an old lady, an old lady warm in her bed (to quote Jack from Titanic).

A good death is a death with the least amount of unfinished business. It’s a death without regrets.

The only way to ensure that is to live a life of no regret.

And that is a great topic for another post so I’ll leave it right there.

On Being Not Worthy

In March of 2021 I started two podcasts, The Foul-Mouthed Woman and The Death Witch. I ran into technical difficulties however, and have thus decided to take my musings back to the blog and YouTube.

This is the first episode of The Foul Mouthed Woman to be done in blog.

I spent half of my life feeling unworthy. Unworthy of love, of money, basically of all the goodness life has to offer.


As a holistic health practitioner I know now what dis-ease this can cause and how this feeling caused some of my health problems.


And as a holistic health practitioner now I would say feeling unworthy is a pandemic equal to CoVid. It causes problems in relationships, in employment, and is directly related to death by suicide. Yet no one is talking about it.


This is a big topic. I’ve covered Being Too Much and Being Not Enough, but how is Not Being Worthy different? That’s hard to explain, really, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Not being worthy, to put it simply, it’s is about self-value, while being too much or not enough is about how we feel others value us.
Feeling not worthy reveals itself in insidious ways. Foremost on my mind today is
something I refer to as …

The Suffering Games


What are the suffering games?

Professionals call it Comparative Suffering. It is the process or either exalting or diminishing one’s trauma comparative to another’s. It is when survivors seek recognition for their suffering by either justifying why their hurt is greater than another’s or conversely, by downplaying their own traumatic woundedness.

As if compassion is finite and one’s right to it, to sympathy or to empathy is determined by a Suffering Score. The internal dialogue might go like, “Well, I think my experience is 6 and Harold’s is a 12 so he wins all the compassion chips this round.”I tend to think this line of thinking is introduced in the early developmental years by parents. The following phrases introduce the pattern that one’s needs, conditions or experience are relative to another’s rather than being self-determining.


Phrases others may have said to you, to plant this seed,
“Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
“Clean your plate, there are starving children in Africa”


Enter ‘not being worthy’.

The stand that you are not worthy of compassion, understanding, nurturing, grief etc. unless your suffering measures up to invisible standards of reference.

That’s not how it works. Trauma isn’t a contest.

There will ALWAYS be someone who’s experience seems less traumatic to you and there will ALWAYS be someone who’s experience seems more traumatic to you. The irony is that many times the one you see whom you’ve judged to have a more traumatic experience is looking at you thinking the same thing.


The Suffering Games is actually a symptom of trauma.


It was a survival skill you developed to keep your head above water and make it out alive. Do you ever remember saying to yourself “it could be worse”, or “at least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’s thing”, or “at least I’m not…” or any variation of the aforementioned?


It was good when it helped you not give up, not give in and not give out. But you are no longer there and it is time to recognize the strength it took for you to make it out alive, regardless of anyone else’s journey!


When People Are In The Midst of Suffering They Cannot Feel Privilege


You might call these people ‘Negative Neds/Nellies’. No matter what positive thing you try to present they just focus on what is not optimal or what is outright wrong in their lives. They cannot let go of the victim identity forged by their trauma and seek to confirm that narrative with every event in their lives.


I call them “yeah, but…” people. No matter what positive thing you try to point out they have a ‘yeah, but…” retort.


I think this is why some white people react very strongly to the term ‘white privilege’. We tend to think of privileges as being positive in nature, ‘it has been an honor and a privilege…’ We also tend to think of privilege in terms of something we’ve earned. Children earn privileges by behaving well and achieving target goals. Adults earn driving privileges. Adults can even buy certain privileges like memberships. Wealth grants a lot of privileges not available to mainstream America, also.

While most privilege can be lost, white privilege cannot. So, you might begin to understand how this is difficult to process for some. I actually think that ‘white fragility’ might be a symptom of trauma more than it is a symptom of racism.


People are used to FEELING privilege. We have the sense that privileges are earned or bestowed and are not guaranteed. Privileges can be lost.

White people can’t FEEL white privilege because it is something they were born with, not something they earned, and not something that can be lost, like all other privileges.
For those in the midst of The Suffering Games, their trauma prevents them from feeling privilege at all. So it makes sense to me that the term ‘white privilege’ could be triggering for those who have an unresolved traumatic history and identify strongly with their suffering score, because what they hear is ‘you are privileged, therefore you haven’t suffered’.

We could probably do a whole exploration of that topic, but I’ll leave it there as food for thought.

Feeling Not Worthy Reduces The Appearance of Available Choices


The state of mind of unworthiness creates a blindness to options. It creates a conditioned passiveness.


We see it most often in women who will ‘settle’ for a man, even when the relationship does not meet her needs, because the man chose her. Her underlying believe is that she does not get to choose anyone, she can only choose who chooses her.


This is a tricky one, because of course good relationships only exist when both partners choose one another, however, the difference is that one who is unworthy is settling rather than actually choosing. Her unworthiness has her believe this is the best she will get because this person chose her. The internal dialogue goes something like, “He likes me. I don’t dislike him. I guess I like him.”


Her underlying feelings of unworthiness have her believing she can only choose from that which comes to her rather than believing she has the right to choose pro-actively. Under those conditions, one would be hard pressed to say no, not knowing when someone else might come along.


We were married about seven years when my husband and I separated. I was devastated and completely heartbroken. I was very much in love with him, even though he wasn’t really a very good husband/partner/father at all. At the time I couldn’t see that. I was so steeped in my unworthiness that I was frantic to get him to want to continue the marriage.

In talking with our therapist about this limbo we were in and why wouldn’t he make a decision to divorce or to try again, she looked at me and said that I have a choice too. I couldn’t see it. What choice did I have? He held all the cards.


But did he?


Of course there was the choice to not choose someone who wasn’t choosing me, but I couldn’t see that. When you feel unworthy, you can’t see that. I was continuing to choose him even though he wasn’t choosing me, and putting my whole life on pause while he played the game with me. When I finally made the choice to go ahead and start living my own life, guess who suddenly was making the choice to try the marriage again?


It should go without saying, but this makes those who feel not worthy prime targets for predators.

And this isn’t just a problem in romantic relationships, but also family’s of origin, in friendships, and in employment.


Workers in this state of feeling unworthy will not ask for raises, Don’t use their vacation time, take more responsibility without asking for an increase in pay, stay late, and sacrifice home life for work life. These workers are also subject to more sexual harassment and bullying. Wouldn’t it be interesting to note if feeling unworthy even plays a role in on the job injuries?


Feeling Unworthy Makes Your World Small


You don’t feel empowered. You don’t feel confident. You don’t believe in yourself. And you don’t feel like you have choices. So, yes your world is very very small.
You are literally waiting for things to land on your doorstep and you accept whatever lands there because you have built a world of lack. Nothing lands on your door step without you ordering it in some form or fashion.


So paying attention to what you are ordering by the activities you engage with, the relationships you have, the treatment you accept will start to change what comes to your door.
More importantly though, start identifying your feelings of unworthiness and work to build up your self-value. No one can do that but you. No one can help you with it either. It’s all on you. And I know you can do it, because I did it.


It’s literally a simple choice to value yourself. To turn off the programming that says “It doesn’t count unless someone else says it.” But if you need that…here I am saying it.


You are of value! There is a gift that ONLY you have to give. NOTHING takes away from that gift. Not mistakes you’ve made. Not circumstances you’ve created or found yourself in. Not what you’ve done, nor what’s happened to you.


YOU are the only you and when you stop trying to make yourself into something else. Something you feel would be ‘more acceptable’ than the real you, then you will start to see how truly fabulous you are!


Somehow we get the idea that there is an ideal way to be in this world. This is subliminal brainwashing by marketing firms across the world who sole premise is to convince you that you are not enough as you are, and that you need what they are selling to be whole.


Narcissists in your life will continue that message to convince you that you need them too. The truth is that they need YOU. YOU have all the power!


Embrace The You You Hide


What parts of you do you hide? What parts make you embarrassed? Make you feel unsure? What parts make you feel weirdly? Or that make you stand out?


These are all parts of your uniqueness and those are the things that need to be revealed!! Embrace them! Don’t dress to hide that belly fat under a big tent! Find styles that accentuate your figure! Don’t walk with your head down! Make eye contact with strangers! Say hello to others first! Initiate conversations in shopping lines.


Look at others who are ‘different’ than typical standards of beauty and see how beautiful they are when they are not hiding in shadows. I’ve seen models with skin pigmentation afflictions! I’ve seen women embracing their saggy boobs!


It’s time to take back the rigid standards of beauty and display what REAL beauty looks like…confidence!


I promise you, your world will open up 1000 percent once you start this practice!


There is nothing unworthy about you. NOTHING.


And I think that is a great place to end…

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Compassion

This word has been on my mind lately. Mostly because the world needs more of it. The people need more of it. The animals need more of it. The planet needs more of it.

As a part of my spiritual practice, I recite five principles every day. The one I end with is “Today, I treat myself and others with compassion.” I love the word compassion. It is a deeply moving word for me requiring me to be more than merely kind, but compassionate. So when I actually looked up the definition I was more than a little disappointed; “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”.

I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. “Sympathetic pity”? I KNOW what compassion feels like for me, but I never took the time to define it. But I know ‘sympathetic pity’ wasn’t part of my definition.

How would you describe Compassion?

My definition would go something like this, “deeply felt care and concern for the wellbeing of others, in times of need.”

I debated even putting that last part in there because I think we all need compassion whether we are in the midst of a crisis or not. However, I think when not ‘in need’, kindness suffices. I think when one is in need they do need something more profound than simple kindness.

When I worked a full time 9-5 job, I had paid time off and I took it when I needed it. I took vacations regularly and stayed home when I was sick. But there were other days when I needed to just take a mental health day and I did that too. Now that I work from home, for myself, there is no paid time off. In addition, some of my work requires I be on call 24/7 for my death and dying clients. Add to that I LOVE what I do, it’s hard to really comprehend that I still need time off.

Running your own business- let alone three businesses- takes discipline and I have that in spades. So much so that I had to build in a ‘day off’ each week, but I may have been too late in doing that. Last week when I was feeling some kind of way and struck with severe back/shoulder/neck/arm pain it caught me off guard. I had worked virtually nonstop to get The Foul Mouthed Woman Podcast launched, AND get started on The Death Witch Podcast. Amidst that I was writing feverishly to complete a few Oracle Cards for the deck I’m co-creating. Everything I do is on the computer and this pain rendered me computer impotent. As I took some time to tend to the physical issue, it was clear to me that something emotionally was working it’s way up and out as well.

I decided to stop looking for a work around the pain and just surrender into it. I’ve taken sick days before when I’ve caught a virus or something. I’ve taken days off when I just felt I needed to take a break. This was different. This was compassionate care. I was taking a Compassionate Care day.

It was a sick day for my soul.

I tended to the wounds of my soul that were on the mend, as well as the physical knotting in my back. I watched movies that made me sob. I took walks. I took small excursions out in public as needed. I made nourishing food.

For four days.

The most important thing I did for those days though was to not feel guilt, or shame and not ‘should’ myself. Like I said, I have tons of discipline, and it would’ve been easy for me to tell myself that disregarding my regular schedule was breaking my commitments; But my most important commitment is to myself. I can no longer do what I did before, because ‘before’ wasn’t working. ‘Before’ was breaking me.

For 27 years I pushed passed my breaking points. I was taught certain rules about being a good employee and how business works. For 27 years I felt powerless, complying with directives without voicing dissension for fear of being fired. Until it made me sick. So sick that at 46 years old I felt 75 and could not fathom how I could go on another 30 years. I didn’t even know how I’d make it another 10.

I didn’t realize it was the job/career making me sick until I quit my job, moved to another state and got married. I procrastinated getting my social work license in the new state. The thought of starting all over in a new state in the same old career felt heavy. My husband put no rush on my finding work and so I settled into taking care of myself…really taking care of myself for the first time in a long time.

Simply moving seemed to give me some relief from my suffering, and with each day I felt a little better. I found new treatments, new care providers, new ways of eating, which all helped. But mostly it was finding myself that really started to heal my body. Moving away from what I ‘should’ do, towards what I ‘want’ to do, improved my health ten fold. It will be 7 years this summer and I feel better than I did 15 years ago. I still have a few issues that are left over, due to the extreme pressure I put myself under, but I have faith I’ll find the answers to those also.

What’s important now, I realize. Is to not adapt the same mindset in this new situation. Pushing myself so hard that I bring on physical immobility in order to get my own attention is simply using the same patriarchal business model in my own business. So, I’ve switched to four work days and one self-care day per week. The weekends are sort of a hodge podge of things depending on my husband’s schedule or if I am pressing a deadline. I have always been one to take a sick day, but the truth is I don’t get sick that often. So offering myself Compassionate Care days on a more regular basis, might better suit my bottom line.

Compassionate Care days have to go above and beyond normal Self-Care days. I have self care built into everyday; at least 1/5 hours, sometimes 3. So Compassionate Care days are going to be luxury self-care days. There’s going to be more treasure hunting, spa days, walks in nature and baths in the middle of the day.

I think we are all in need of compassion regardless of our current situations. Compassion doesn’t have to be reserved for ‘justified’ times of pain and suffering! I think treating one another and ourselves with deeply felt care and concern for our/their wellbeing across the board would serve the Greater Good and mend the world’s hearts.

Peace Be With You

Sacred Sundays

No doubt due to my Catholic upbringing, I hold Sundays as sacred even though I no longer subscribe to an organized religious dogma. In my youth, Sundays meant attending Sunday mass and getting Dunkin’ Donuts afterwards.

As a young wife and mother we made it family day and either went out for crepes or we brought them home. No matter the tradition, Sundays have always felt special. Like they were the one day of the week when All Possibilities were palpable.

Even as a college student at St. Teresa’s, in Winona, Minnesota it was a day to stay in pajamas, be cozy, and share with friends. We often took a walk around the lakes.

Sundays feel like clean slates.

Today, I reserve Sundays as Sacred Self-Care. There is no one particular tradition, other than I don’t work unless entirely inspired to do so. There’s no agenda on Sundays. What gets done, gets done. All the rest can wait until Monday.

Sundays are for resetting.

Monday through Saturday are work days. Whether it is working for your employer, your self, or keeping up with the household chores. Sundays should hold little to none of that. Sundays should be about fueling our souls. Connecting with our highest selves and recharging.

I find limiting my television watching on Sundays has spilled over into the week. Even ‘having it on in the background’ seems to take energy from the environment. Replacing that background noise with soothing new age music positively charges the air and nurtures the Spirit.

Reading books for leisure, and not work or research related, also is a nice activity for a Sunday. Especially those cold snowy Sundays, here in lower Michigan. I include in this category, pulling out old photo albums or scrapbooks and taking a stroll down memory lane. Double bonus points if you can find someone who will sit with you while you do it.

I work with Oracle Cards as well as other card decks and often do a reading for myself using one of my many decks. Journalling about each card, it’s message and how it pertains to my life is a very therapeutic use of a Sunday.

I rarely do small screens on Sundays. No computer. No internet. It is so freeing. No drama to get caught up in. No rabbit holes to go down. Just peace in my world.

I know it is Monday at the time of this posting, but perhaps you can think this week on how to make your Sundays more Sacred and let me know if it makes a difference next week!

Peace Be With You,

Jade

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are. – Maya Angelou.

This short little quote helped me understand the ‘how’ of relationships. I kept expecting people to be true to their words, because I was true to mine. That’s just not how it goes with everyone. Many people mean what they say, when they say it, but give not much thought after that. So I was torn between believing what people said (because as an empath I didn’t feel they were lying) but then disheartened when they would yet again disappoint me.

I expected them to be who they wanted to be, rather than who they were.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

I have a rule of three and it applies in many areas of my life. But one I am most adamant about is giving people three chances. Sometimes mistakes are made. Anyone can have a misstep or poor judgment once. So long as it isn’t a deal breaker that gets foofed off as a “one off-er”. A freebie, so to speak. A brief conversation might be had, or it might just be dismissed.

The second time that thing shows up, it’s a deeper conversation and it’s noted, in a file, in a drawer, in a cabinet, in my brain. The third time that thing happens, I’m done. Like D O N E done. Three times? That’s a pattern my friend. You have just showed me who you are. Now, granted there are certain things that if done once they never get the chance to do a second time, but those things are big deal breakers and go without saying.

I think largely this quote is good guidance for people caught up in co-dependent relationships, with the repeating loop of “I’ll do better”, doesn’t do better, “sorry I didn’t do better.” However, sometimes this lesson isn’t about ending a relationship. It might be about ending your expectations.

People show us all the time who they are and we immediately discern whether or not they are someone we want to get to know better. Sometimes it is easy to decide, ‘no, I don’t feel compatible with that person’ and you move on. Other times though the relationship has no red flags or warning signs. It’s a perfectly good relationship. You might laugh together. Do activities or projects together, but maybe at some point you feel like you aren’t getting out of the relationship what you put into it.

Or maybe you just feel like you aren’t getting what you need from it…

That’s what I want to talk about today.

It is perfectly OK for you to know that you ‘deserve’ what you want from a relationship, be it romantic or friendship. The thing is just because YOU deserve it, doesn’t mean the person you want it from OWES it to you.

Even if you extend to them the same respect, effort or affection. Just because you give it doesn’t mean the other person is obligated to return it. That’s when you need to adjust your expectations to fit the relationship you are actually in, rather than the one you imagined yourself to be in.

People can only offer you what they have to give. No more. And if they offer you less, well then they are telling you something aren’t they? Either they are not capable or they are not willing. Either way, they are not optimal as partners in the relationship you thought you were creating. If you were intending to create a romantic or business relationship, it is probably advisable to end that versus just changing your expectations. However, if your intention was to create a friendship then you don’t have to end it, just change your expectations.

Friendships come in many shades. There are best friends who are confidantes where the bond runs deep. There are social friends who like to go out and do things socially without much deep conversation. There are work friends you never see outside of the workplace. And a hundred other kinds of friends in between. If you were going for ‘best friend’ and you aren’t getting back what you put in, don’t scrap the friendship, just adjust your expectations. Recognize what the other person is offering you and manage your expectations to that degree.

Now let’s end on a more positive note.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, in one way or another, “I have trust issues”, or “People have to earn my trust.” I’m here to tell you that last one is backwards and the first one says more about you than anyone else.

We don’t ‘trust’ others, we trust ourselves to put our energies into the right places. Listening for who people show themselves to be is key in that. How many times did you ‘trust’ someone, get disappointed and then look back and see the warning signs you overlooked/didn’t listen to? They were there. You know they were. You just wanted what you imagined the relationship could be so much that you chose to be deaf and blind. If you think you have trust issues, it’s because you really have imagination issues.

You imagined a future relationship and confused that with present time. You overlooked and excused behavior because you didn’t want to give up the ‘potential’ the relationship has for the future. This is imagination at its finest. You IMAGINE that the relationship will become something else in the future and therefore trade your present for it and are surprised when the results are not what you imagined. It’s kind of like wanting to bake a cake, but don’t find all the ingredients for it in your pantry, so you put together what you have, stick it in the oven and expect it to still come out like cake.

People do not earn our trust. To really be authentic in relationships you need to have the approach of trusting someone until/unless they give you a reason not to – in other words, ‘until they show you who they are’ (or who they are not.)

When people show you themselves as honest, trustworthy, attentive and understanding, believe them. Don’t make them jump through hoops to prove themselves. Enjoy the even exchange relationship and don’t overthink it. However, do pay attention when if they begin showing you themselves to NOT be those things!

Too often we get hooked into someone because they intoxicate us. Maybe they are exciting. We feel a little small sometimes but they make us feel bigger. Maybe they give us really high-highs through their antics or their humor. But with those highs or feeling big we can feel the opposite sometimes. A relationship with those kind of ‘mood swings’ is not healthy.

Oh yes, every relationship has highs and lows over time, but the highs should outweigh the lows. No one should ever try to make you feel small – ever. This is not someone to be in partnership with at all. In a healthy relationship there should be more stability than highs. You can’t be high all the time. If you are seeking highs because you feel ‘bored’ in stability then it says quite a bit about you and your interpersonal dynamics, and some internal work is in order.

Remember, you are also showing people who you – and they will believe you, too.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Interfaith Ministry

“I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.”

I have heard this more often than not in the past 15 years. It is how I’ve described my own Faith system for more than 30 years now.

And it is exactly why my compulsion to serve in a spiritual role led me to my recent induction as a First Responder Chaplain.

When my daughter was born 27 years ago, I sought a church that would meet my/our spiritual needs in a broader capacity. I enjoyed the ritual and community of church, but not the dogma. My search went on for years as I researched and explored many different faith systems.

Along the way, one thing became clear – spirituality resonated with me, religion did not.

I grew up in a very Roman Catholic household. My mother’s brother was a missionary priest stationed in the Amazon and their two sisters were School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns. My uncle would say mass in our living room when he was home. It is here that I developed my love of ritual, I’m sure of it.

I went to a Women’s Catholic liberal arts college where we attended mass either in the lounge in our pajamas or in the beautiful chapel and full of dancing, singing and poetry.

After college I attempted to find that same sort of relaxed, inclusive, interactive atmosphere, to no avail. Studying other religions, philosophies and ways of life not only enabled me to expand my knowledge and understanding, it also enabled me to collect rituals, beliefs and practices that resonated as True for me.

I learned how similar all religions are in their core teachings, and how much of what we know as organized religion was appropriated from nature religions and Eastern philosophies.

For my own spiritual fulfillment I found solace in the nature religions with added appreciation of Eastern Philosophies.

In 2003, I became an ordained Minister in the Universal Life Church, because I wanted to offer an alternative officiant for anyone identifying as ‘spiritual, not religious’.

Since that time I have offered what I refer to now as Interfaith Ministry. While the dictionary defines ‘Interfaith’ as “relating to or between different religions or members of different religions,” I do not. That same dictionary defines faith as follows: noun -1 complete trust or confidence in someone or something -2 strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

I believe Faith goes beyond the boundaries of religion.

People can have faith in one another, in God, in the Universe, in Jesus, in a Creator, in Yahweh, in Muhammad, in Buddha, in Life, and in themselves. Faith is not reserved for those who find solace in religion. Faith is what we call the system of beliefs a person holds. Period. Thus, interfaith is relating to or between different faith systems that may or may not include religion.

So, it is here that I landed in order to offer spiritual support to any person in need. I can as easily sit and read the Bible to a non-practicing Catholic woman, as I can read The Good Book to a Humanist, as I can read from A Course In Miracles for New Age believers, as I can read poetry and prose for those more secularly minded.

More than a few times I’ve been in a situation where chaplaincy services were offered to me and I regretted accepting them. I am not a fan of having other people’s beliefs imposed upon me, but that is exactly what happened. There was no room in the conversation for exploration and true processing of my feelings and emotions in that time of suffering. I found no comfort in their words and their beliefs. I found myself shutting down and saying whatever I could to get them to leave the room as quickly as possible.

So I set out to provide actual interfaith, nonjudgemental spiritual support sans agenda. I wanted to provide what I couldn’t seem to receive from anywhere. Perhaps it is my social work training, or maybe it’s my innate nature, but in my mind spiritual support is supposed to provide comfort. Comfort does not come by disputing a person’s belief system, unless the belief system itself is creating the suffering.

I have attempted to serve in a more official spiritual capacity for many years, however most roles are Christian based and require Theological training (heavily Christian) which I have not chosen to pursue. So, when I met a woman who talked about just becoming a First Responder Chaplain my ears perked up and I enrolled into the very next training.

The training was definitely geared towards Christianity but because of it’s 501(c) status, they could not refuse training to a non-Christian. In addition, I received no ill treatment because of my different belief. In fact, it was clear that they respected my different faith system and saw where I could provide support that they were uncomfortable providing. Win/Win. That said, I will tell you there were things that I felt were imposing and I let that be known.

My intention is to serve those who

  1. have followed a solo spiritual path
  2. are at a crossroads, in celebration or in crisis
  3. in need of guidance, support or ritual within their framework of faith
  4. and find themselves without a spiritual advisor.

To provide this service to, and in conjunction with, our First Responders to make death notifications or offer support in times of trauma is a privilege I do not take lightly. Not everyone who receives bad news or is involved somehow in a traumatic event will be comforted by traditional means.

I do not think that my perspective is unique in this, although I do think it is a well kept secret. To some extent there is still backlash experienced when one is vocal about not being Christian, so those who have alternative faith systems tend to be silent about it. However, more and more I have been privy to officiating rites of passage for groups with mixed faith systems and the experience is more beautiful than you can imagine.

The key to live harmoniously is to focus on what unites us, not on what separates and divides us. To close ourselves off from others because on the surface they appear to be ‘different’ doesn’t serve our highest good. Our highest good is served by creating brotherhoods and sisterhoods; by forging unimaginable alliances; by not investing ourselves in being right, but in being happy.

Happy people don’t do harm. They don’t seek to judge. They don’t seek to impost their beliefs on another. They don’t seek opportunities to convert others to their way of thinking and believing. Happy people recognize the happy in others. Happy comes in all shapes and sizes.

Chaplaincy, Spiritual Guidance or whatever else you name it, needs to be about one thing…holding the Space for Light to enter. That Light might be the breath in your body, the love in your heart, the God within you or the gods above you. It is not for me to dictate that to anyone. I take it as my solemn responsibility to hold a mirror up to reflect and magnify the Light in each person I serve, in whatever space I’m in, in whatever way brings comfort to those around me.

Peace Be With You

To Tell, Or Not To Tell The Children, There’s No Question

It is our job as parents to protect, nurture, and guide our children into whole human beings. It is our responsibility to do this to the best of our ability. If we do it right, the parenting role will take us outside our comfort zone more often than it doesn’t. Sometimes stretching us into improved versions barely resembling the old.

We know it isn’t best to take the easy way out and give in to whining, or temper tantrums, or tears when enforcing bedtime, curfew, or homework. We establish house rules and expect there will be resistance in the teen through young adult years, while we live under the same roof. Still, we know that it is best not to give in just because they will be upset.

That same truth appears here – where we are talking about a parent’s terminal diagnosis or life-limiting illness.

Navigating the rocky terrain of life-limiting illness and terminal diagnosis is a challenge none of us fantasize about. Most don’t spend time thinking about how to handle such a situation in advance. There’s no play book, no manual, and certainly no instruction sheet for reference. When it comes to our kids, though, we have to get it right – and we only have one chance. What we give them during this time will shape who them become as adults.

“We’re Not Telling The Children”

If this is you, this your fear talking. You want to keep things as they are, falsely, in an effort to deny what is happening. In an effort to hold on to yesterday for one more day. But it isn’t fair to your children.

I know you think you are doing the right thing, but you are doing the easy thing. There is nothing on Earth harder than breaking your child’s heart. You tell yourself you are doing the right thing, by delaying that broken heart as long as you can. What you are really doing though is postponing that broken heart until such time as you are either gone, or too weak to be able to support their processing.

You don’t tell the children so you won’t have to deal with their pain – not so they won’t have to deal with yours…that’s not what we do as parents.

Now is when you’re children need to know. Not tomorrow or next week, because I promise you tomorrow, or next week, or the week after will bring the day you most dread when it will be too late.

Tell them when you are diagnosed. Let them be a part of your healthcare and support team. Including them early on prevents them from being at the ‘can’t we do something stage’ when you’ve already determined there isn’t. You don’t have to have all the answers when you tell them. The fact you let them in on the process will allow them to deal with whatever comes along.

You are leaving them and that is inconceivable. However, they are going to have to live a whole lifetime without you. They are going to need every second possible to grasp that and to gain the tools necessary to make it through some important milestones and intense challenges.

They will feel powerless in all this – much like you – so give them opportunities to feel empowered. Give small children small jobs, like being “Mom’s water pitcher manager”. Give older children tasks that play to their strengths like making Dad’s favorite play list or a favorite sandwich. Allow them to feel they serve a purpose in supporting you.

Give them space to process and opportunities to express their fears, feelings and faith. They will need help navigating these emotional waters, give them as much time possible to do that by telling them as soon as possible. They need you, now more than ever, in order to cope with losing you. After all who better to teach them?

When you keep the truth from children you deny them the maximum time possible to process their anticipatory grief and to cherish their time with you.

“They’re Too Young To Know What’s Going On”

No child is ever too young to know when something is changing. Even infants are affected by grief, as they pick up on the emotions and energy in the environment and in their caregivers. They will need extra soothing, comforting and nurturing to calm their distress. Infants and toddlers need extra physical comforting because they cannot process linguistically yet. They might need to be held more. They might need extra reassurance about mundane things. They’ll need to sleep more. They’ll need you to honestly deal with your own feelings because they will sense the discord if you are not.

The older the child the more aware they will be of the non-verbal cues in the household. No, your three year old will not process the same information as your sixteen year old. They still need to be part of the process, though.

Why Tell Them When It’s Only Going To Hurt Them?

Because every child knows the temperature in their own house. Every child I’ve ever worked with, knew things were bad long before the divorce papers were filed. Yet, every parent felt so sure that ‘the children didn’t know anything’. So, many children end up in therapy for ‘behavior problems’ only to find out they are lost in an emotional forest because they experience congruence: “I sense something is wrong, but everyone says it’s all fine.” The truth of their experience clashes with the lies of adults and creates chaos internally. If you ever wondered how ‘gaslighting’ got it’s start, here it is.

If this is true, then it is more true when a parent is terminally ill. Our children are comprised of our blood and DNA. They know things about us. They know when we are not being honest and truthful. They know when we don’t feel well. And most of all they know when we are afraid.

It’s more than ok to share that with them – it is necessary for their emotional wellbeing.

When we are diagnosed we are not the only ones…everyone else in our life receives the diagnosis as well.

When we don’t share the truth with others we take away their rights. Yes. Their rights. Their right to support us as they desire. Their right to take care of us like we’ve taken care of them. Their right to have as much time possible to process feelings and anticipatory grief. Their right to share this experience with us. Their right to their own experience of our dying and death.

When we don’t share truth with others we take their freedom. The freedom to choose how to say good-bye, how to spend their time, and how to grieve. We rob them of the opportunity that comes with time, too. The opportunity to share the words on our hearts, to make lasting memories, and to bear witness to and for one another.

When we keep the truth from children we are not shielding them, we are isolating them.

If you or your spouse has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or has received a terminal prognosis, you and your kids have already been dealt a crappy hand. Don’t make it worse by stealing precious time from one another because it is painful. It’s going to be painful no matter what. You can’t control the wounding, but you can control the bleeding, so to speak. Every decision you make regarding sharing, or not sharing, the truth with your kids impacts them in one of two ways: either helping the healing process or complicating the grieving.

Here’s something else.

Tell the children because they already know. And if they already know, then they also know you aren’t telling them the truth. And if they know you aren’t telling them the truth, they can’t trust you to tell them truth in the future.

And that is the most damage you can inflict in a parent/child relationship.

We cannot protect our children from a diagnosis. We can only help to arm them with appropriate tools to come through this to the other side.

This loss is something they will walk with the rest of their lives. It is important we do this one thing right because there are no do-overs. We only get one chance to say good-bye.

Jade

Holistic Support Specialist, Interfaith Minister, First Responder Chaplain, Shaman, Energy Healer, Licensed Social Worker (ret)

The ACTS Of Empowerment

ACTS of Empowerment

One of the scariest situations we can be in, is the one where we are not in control. This time in our country’s timeline will go down as one of the scariest of all; A time when we had to physically separate from loved ones for fear of a life threatening invader.

In truth though, death is always in our cards, we simply have chosen to exist in denial about it. COVID-19 is forcing us to consider our mortality and that of our loved ones. Everything about COVID has taught us we are not in control of anything outside ourselves. We are not in control of what our government, our neighbors, our employers, the healthcare system or the virus does. We can only control our own thoughts, actions and beliefs in any given situation.

When we don’t feel in control, we don’t feel empowered. The problem is not the lack of control. The problem is 1) thinking we were in control of things we weren’t and 2) not exerting control over the things we were.

These four acts of empowerment are useful across the board of our lives. It is important to look at this because fear is a very dangerous symptom of any crisis. And if you take the time now to come to some sort of terms with your own mortality, I promise you, it will change the way you live your life after this crisis is over.

Empowerment is the anti-dote for fear.

Empowerment is an inside job. I don’t believe in beings empowering other beings. We are empowered from the second Life is Breathed into us. Throughout our lives we discover more and better ways of accessing and demonstrating our power, and THAT is something that others can support us in…but no one else actually empowers us.

Acceptance

The first act of empowerment is Acceptance. To accept what is, as is. Dissonance happens when we are in resistance to what is, by looking back to what was. In today’s happenings we ask ‘when will things return to normal?” But normal is gone. Normal is attachment to yesterday. Yesterday we had a plan and today that plan is no longer viable.

We need to embrace today there is something new at work and we haven’t yet figured out what it is. That’s ok. It’s ok to stand in the not knowing. In fact, that is what we must do to get into acceptance. We have to also acknowledge that we have grief over the loss of yesterday’s plan. Not having a ‘normal’ is a loss and grief is the emotional reaction to that loss.
To get to acceptance we must embrace what is, even if what is feels like being ‘stuck in the mud’. It’s ok to sit still in the mud for a minute. Embrace that. Accept that. Attachment to how things used to be keeps us in dissonance. Dissonance and acceptance are mutually exclusive. Resonance breeds acceptance. So, pay attention to what resonates with you at your highest level.

You don’t have to like something to accept it.

That’s key. Just like forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone someone’s behavior, so too, just because you accept something doesn’t mean you like it. Acceptance just means you are in the present moment, understanding it as reality. You are no longer trying to change the moment back to what was yesterday. You are also not looking to tomorrow hoping to recreate yesterday. That’s another key. You take what is today and see what you can do with it even if you are not its biggest fan.

The place of acceptance is resonance while the place of resistance is dissonance. The more you follow resonance the more empowered you will feel. Acceptance resonates at a high level. Even if you don’t like what you have to accept, accepting it will be more resonant than remaining in a state of resistance. Acceptance does not mean you don’t want to effect change upon the circumstance. Acceptance of the situation in its entirety enables you to make necessary and valuable changes.

You will know you’ve entered a state acceptance when you can at least say ‘Ok FINE! Now what?’ Resignation is a form of acceptance.

Connection

The second act of empowerment is connection. When we feel disempowered we feel isolated and vice verse, so it stands to reason that the anti-dote to that would be connection.

You might be thinking this is quite the challenge during this quarantine lockdown we are in, but you would be wrong. The kind of connection we are seeking here is actually something that has been missing for a long time, yet within everyone’s grasp.

Many are talking about ‘when this is over we will return to normal’. Others are saying that the normal that once was will never be again. And I hope that is true. Our normal was seeing a gathering of individuals, most of which were on their phones or other devices. Now, when connecting via devices is the only life line, we are beginning to understand how much we took face to face for granted.

The connectedness we are talking about though in regards to empowerment is the connection to something bigger than ourselves. This does include connecting to the love that we have for family and friends, however it has to also include something bigger than that. Whatever your Source is for Love and Light. The All. Whatever name All goes by for you: Allah, Jesus, God, Mother Earth, Goddess it doesn’t matter. Whatever you feel is a higher consciousness or a bigger energetic body than you.

Where do you connect to that Source? Church? Well, where else can be your church now? A backyard meditation garden is a wonderful start! Out in nature is an easy one, because everyone ‘believes’ in nature! Nature works its magical wonders of connection on you whether you realize it or not. If you don’t have a backyard then find a county or city park that offers you some natural habitat. If you can find a body of water, even better.

Other ways to connect to Source is to create a small altar in your home and sit with it for awhile. You can meditate, or pray, or do rituals, or say spells…they are all basically the same thing. You might have been conditioned to be afraid of one or more of those words but honestly they are all containers for the same energy.

How do you make an altar? Simple version: cover a small table with the scarf or hanky of a loved one and place a candle on top. You can get as elaborate as you want from there by adding fresh flowers, dried herbs, crystals, family pictures, sage, incense, bowl of water, images, icons, rosaries, prayer beads, malas, statues etc…

Whatever makes you happy and adds to your connection to Source.

Spending just 15 mins a day in quiet solitude in front of your altar will offer you a wonderful connection.

Connection to something bigger than you gives you power to handle the situation you are in. It isn’t really a belief system thing. It is an energetic feeling. You can’t believe it into being. You can’t speak it into being. You have to practice it into being.

Transmutation

The third act of empowerment is transmutation. The transmutation process changes something from one form into another form. In this case, transmutation is the act of changing negative into positive, and changing negative to positive is the basic premise of empowerment.

Beginner empaths are often taught to ‘block’ or ‘guard’ their energetic fields in order to protect them. This is a necessary step in learning how to manage energy, however it is not a landing place.

When we block and guard we do nothing to improve the situation. We simply allow the less than desirable energy to remain in the environment and affect the next person who comes along. Don’t believe me? How often have you walked into a room where an argument had ensued and ‘the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife’? Now, if someone had transmuted that energy then no one else would walk in and feel that.

Developing the skill to transmute negative heavy energy into positive light energy is an important evolution in any energy healer or empath. However, even non-empaths and those without an interest in energy healing need to engage in transmutation. It is simply a matter of not adding fuel to a fire.

When someone comes at you with negativity or aggression, you respond in neutralizing opposition. Which means, you don’t respond with negativity or aggression, but with compassion and assertiveness.

It means not perpetuating the situation, as well as not escalating it. Phrases like “I understand what you are saying.” “I hear you.” “Maybe we can talk later.” “That sounds really painful.” “I can see you are really hurting.”

This doesn’t imply one allows bad behavior to continue. It dictates use of compassion to help the other feel supported so that they can change their own behavior. When efforts to do this fail, it is advisable to extricate oneself from the situation and circle back to the person at another time if desired.

If you can’t practice transmutation then you must at least refrain from contributing to the heavy energy.

A wonderful side effect of this practice happens automatically. You will find yourself lighter, with less stress and feeling more emotionally stable. Indeed, you will find yourself empowered.

Becoming skilled in transmutation you ultimately leave the world in a better state than you found it.

Surrender

Surrender is often defined as giving up, but that is not the spirit of Surrender. The spirit of surrender is to cease resistance. The essential art of going with the flow, instead of swimming against the tide.

Surrender realizes that forcing something is a sign that whatever ‘it’ is, is not for you at this time. Releasing the need to control outcomes, is the swiftest way to surrender. It isn’t that you give up on your goal, it is that you realize you might have mixed up your goal with one possible outcome, which is in fact, not a goal but merely one possibility. In other words, your goal might be making THIS relationship the one to end all relationships, when in fact that is one possibility for the actual goal, which is to be in a relationship that serves you.

Surrendering will be understanding that the best way to meet your goal would be to let go of the relationship that seems to want to end rather than pulling out all the stops to keep it in play.

Surrendering requires us to evaluate obstacles when they show up. Obstacles on our path serve two purposes: cause to pause and redirection. Cause to pause, is an opportunity to really take stock of what is happening. Is it for our highest good? Is this what I want? Usually this obstacle simply gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do I want this? Why do I feel this is in my highest good? And to ask ‘is this worth it?’ then really listen for the answer. If it isn’t making you feel better OR making you a better human being (cause sometimes that process doesn’t feel so great initially), it isn’t worth it.

After such pondering it is easy to see that sometimes a change of direction is warranted. When you ask ‘is this worth it’? And answer ‘no’, then you must switch directions. Take the opportunity to redefine your goal to make sure it is a goal and not just one possible outcome. Restate your goal. Envision it. Then choose the new path to get there.

Surrender is not about giving up, it is about leveling up. It’s about Trusting your Higher Self and Divine Grace to get you where you want to go. In surrendering we feel more empowerment because we understand that the Universe is conspiring on our behalf, rather than believing we are all alone against the world. We no longer believe that we have to be in control of everything, because in fact, we cannot.

The ACTS (Acceptance, Connection, Transmutation, Surrender) can be used in any situation to develop your Empowerment. Apply it to work, life, problem, challenge, parenting, encounters with bullies and other crabby people as necessary.

If nothing else remember that empowerment is an inside job.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

A Dialogue About Death

Every story ever written has a beginning, middle and an end. Every author considers the end when first sitting down to write a storyline; However in the greatest story an individual will ever author, the end is often left unscripted.

We can’t write death in on our calendars and begin to plan when it seems ‘timely’. On the day we are born our death is written onto our calendar in invisible ink.

Modern day society chooses to approach death as if acknowledging it is morbid, preparing for it hastens it and accepting it is giving up.

Talking about your end of life care preferences when death is a remote possibility, supports decision making about end of life care when death is a probability, and promotes healthy coping during end of life when death becomes an inevitability.

In December 1974, my uncle was home from his work as a missionary priest in the Amazon, when an aortic aneurysm ruptured and he died in his sleep. I was nine years old, in the kitchen, as the discussion of burial arrangements took place and there was question about where he should be laid to rest. I said I knew where he wanted to be buried.

Every year my uncle hosted our family reunion on the grounds of the Villa Redeemer Monastery in Glenview, Illinois. On this property was a small cemetery and on one of our walks through the grounds that summer, my uncle told me he would someday be laid to rest there.

Because he shared that with me, I was able to share that with my mother. It was a small conversation that made a big difference to my mother in her grief.

Perhaps because my grandmother grew up on a farm where death was recognized as a part of life; Perhaps because my mother’s brother died at four years of age; Perhaps because my mother grew up during WWII; Perhaps because my own father died when I was three…perhaps for all these reasons, death was not a taboo subject in my house growing up, nor has it ever been a taboo subject in my own home as an adult.

Embracing mortality has emotionally prepared me to make life and death decisions in unexpected moments. This preparation does not make decision making easier – it does however, make it less complicated.

When we live in denial of mortality we create an illusion that creates complications during times of crisis. It requires that our psyche do some serious catching up in very little time, and oftentimes there isn’t enough time to actually catch up.

The internal dialogues might look like this:

Prepared: (death is a real possibility) “No. No. NO! I can’t believe this is happening. I knew this day would one day come, but today? I’m not ready. I’ll never be ready. I can’t make these decisions. I don’t want to make these decisions. We talked about what to do, but I don’t want to.”

*breath*

This isn’t about me. It’s about Mom and living life on her terms. It’s so hard to imagine this, but Mom has always been clear about what she wants.”

(death is a probability) “I don’t want to believe that I have to do this, but I know what Mom wants. She’s told me all along. She doesn’t want to merely exist. She doesn’t want to be on machines. She doesn’t want to be a burden. She wants to live life on her terms. If she can’t be an independent active participant in life, she said she didn’t want to prolong her death. She prepared me for this, but my heart is breaking.

*breath*

I don’t want her to suffer for me. I want her to be peace-filled.

(death is inevitable) “I’m sorry Mom for the things I did that hurt you. Please forgive me, hurting you was never my intention. Thank you, for teaching me what friendship means. I forgive you, for all the things I was ever angry about. I love you.”

*breath*

Mom, it’s ok to let go, if you need to. I’m here. I’m right here.”

(death comes)

Unprepared: (death is a real possibility) “No. No. No. No. NO! I won’t believe it! We have to keep fighting. You have to keep fighting, Mom. You are a survivor! You got this! Yes, keep her alive at all costs. Don’t give up on her. It isn’t her time yet. I’m not ready yet.”

There has to be something else we can try. Why is she getting worse instead of better? What are you doing?! Why aren’t you helping her?”

(death is a probability) “Mom, I know you are tired and suffering but you have to keep fighting. This isn’t over yet. You still have so much to do. I need you. Your grandchildren need you. I am not prepared to say goodbye so you have to keep fighting, ok?”

You are not a quitter! Don’t you give up on me!”

(death is inevitable) “I can’t believe this is happening. I knew this day would one day come, but today? I’m not ready.

I’ll never be ready.”

(death comes)

I didn’t even have the chance to say good bye…”

Preparation is not morbid. It does not hasten death. It needs to be seen as the natural order of authoring our lives.

Just as preparation does not manifest death, it also does not guarantee the circumstances of our death. We cannot foresee details, but we can verbalize the atmosphere we’d like it to have. Because at birth our death is already added to our ‘to do list’, it is appropriate to have ongoing open conversations about what we might want to include and exclude from that atmosphere.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic our mortality has never been more undeniable. Take this opportunity to begin having conversations, exploring your fears, beliefs and hopes about your own death. Tell your loved ones what your preferences are to ease their emotional burden when the time does come. Your loved ones may not have certain choices regarding your end of life care, but at least they will have your Voice as guidance in making the really tough ones.

It may not come during this pandemic – we all hope that is true – but clearly, death is happening all around us now. We might still live in fear of it, but we can no longer deny the possibility, probability and inevitability of our mortality.

It is in embracing the existence of our death that our best living begins.

Pandemic Traumatic Grief

To a certain degree there is trauma in every loss, whether it is the unexpectedness of it, the suffering of it, the impact of it, the violence of it or the massiveness of it. Every loss has an element of trauma to it.

It is the magnitude of the event that makes it traumatic.

As a three year old, I woke in the middle of the night due to a loud noise and ran into my parent’s room for solace. Instead, I found my father lying tangled in the bedsheets on the floor. I didn’t understand what I was seeing. To me he was sleeping on the floor, so I tried my three year old best to wake him up. Shaking him and calling his name and telling him to wake up. When that didn’t work, I ran into my grandmother’s room, woke her up and told her ‘something’s wrong with Daddy’.

Traumatic grief.

What made it worst is that no one ever talked with me about it. I didn’t speak for three days and did not say the words ‘good bye’ again, that I remember. I suppose their thought was that I was three and was too young to remember. Yet, at fifty-five I still remember it as clearly today as I did that night.

Traumatic grief.

The common experience of devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, earth quakes and tsunamis is that what was absolutely known one moment is absolutely gone in the next. The landscape of our lives, our homes and our city skylines are completely destroyed and eliminated – physically and emotionally.

Traumatic grief.

September 11, 2001 when the first plane struck the twin towers in New York City, New York, USA, there was grief…”How could this awful accident happen?” Before we could even process that grief, the second plane hit and the question turned to a statement, “This was on purpose.” As the following two planes were identified as part of the plan, the new revelation brought more grief.

Traumatic grief.

With the realization that there would be more recovery than rescue, our trauma compounded. With the information that insurance companies did not cover ‘terrorist attacks’, our trauma compounded. With each last voicemail messages shared, our trauma compounded.

Traumatic grief.

Today a biological siege is upon us.

We are at the mercy of an enemy we cannot see, but who’s damage is leaving bodies in bags and crushing spirits. We panic at the subtlest of symptoms because information is nebulous at best, ever changing at worst. The emotional, mental, financial and social landscape of our lives has changed almost overnight.

Unlike weather related natural disasters we have no visual evidence of destruction available on the news to help us move from the initial denial stage of grief. While in denial, we can’t possibly make the right decisions to ‘stay safe, stay home’, because we are still reaching back for the life that so swiftly disappeared. It is almost as if we see the old life before us and we struggle to realize we are looking at a memory.

Others who are not in denial, those who are in an anger stage, see these choices as irresponsible and stupid. They will blame those in denial for the ongoing worsening of the situation. The anger stage causes increased bullying, trolling and arguing. This compounds trauma.

We find ourselves bargaining ‘too little, too late’ into our new reality. We stay home from work, but make needless trips out into the community. We stop hugging and shaking hands, but hold parties in the park. Still in the throws of denial we attempt to create a reality that is less dissimilar from our ‘before’ reality, than what currently is. This often looks to others like we just refuse to follow the rules. And it might be true, but this is grief and everyone follows grief in their own way, in their own time. You can’t mandate people to move through grief faster than they can.

As the new reality is absorbed and the magnitude of the trauma is processed, depression sets in. Add in the social distancing and isolation requirements of quarantine with stay at home mandates, the traumatic depression is compounded.

Our normal remedies for such things are not available with social distancing, isolation and quarantine in place. So the damage/danger rises. The trauma compounds.

In addition, we have the financial upheaval this creates individually, locally and globally. The trauma compounds.

Our healthcare professionals are being asked to perform super humanly. They are not staying at home, staying safe, because they can’t. We need them on the front lines and they have stepped up. They sacrifice their needs for the needs of the whole which is more than the system does for them.

When this is over these heroes, who gave their all, will not have the opportunity to recuperate, because healthcare needs are always present. There won’t be the opportunity to sit on the couch watching netflix or play board games with their children. In fact, many will develop PTSD. The trauma compounds.

What does acceptance look like in a scenario like this?

It looks like neighbors having dance parties in driveways, virtual celebrations of life for loved ones, individuals making hundreds of respirator masks for healthcare professionals, teachers teaching online, neighbors checking in on neighbors. It looks like people moving from busy to being. It looks like calm within the chaos.

It looks like creating a new reality that holds more reverence for life and relationships. It looks like a society that takes care of the whole not the few. It looks like healers stepping forth as a new kind of hero.

It also brings with it a new acceptance of our mortality, the need to plan for it and discuss it more openly. Our death, while we do not need to hasten it, we cannot deny its inevitability. The discussions about advanced care decisions and end of life ceremony and disposition preferences have been taboo for far too long. Now, we are faced with what the end of life community has begged you to understand.

Not only is the date of our death unknown, unimaginable and unpredictable, but so too are the circumstances of our death. We may or may not have forewarning, and any forewarning will likely be only weeks, days or mere hours in advance. And if you are not listening close enough you may not even hear the forewarning when issued.

Every day has a birth and a death written in it’s sunrise and sunset. Every day you too carry your birth and death with every inhale and exhale. It is a luxury to think your next breath is a given. It is a luxury to think your tomorrow is a given.

This is part of what compounds our traumatic grief during this time. Because left and right we are now forced to face mortality as the death toll is announced. The truth is though that we are a society almost desensitized in our traumatic grief. Soaring murder rates, increased poverty, mass shootings, terrorism, war and violence against women and people of color has all contributed to our collective trauma. So, once again, our trauma is compounded.

Our experience with death is changed right now. We don’t even have the basic right to have someone at our hospital bedside, much less the choice to have a funeral or memorial with all loved ones in attendance.

This is not the time necessarily for discussing whether or not you’d prefer lavender or peppermint essential oil diffused in your bedroom in your last days. It is, however, the perfect time to seriously discuss where your quality of life line lies. What aggressive measures you would or would not want taken should it come to that.

It is the time to make sure your legal documents are in order, your passwords are accessible to a trusted person and someone knows something about your wishes regarding your final resting place.

It is also the time to do some emotional estate planning. Write letters to loved ones to be read at a later date, at your celebration of life service, or by a loved one at a wedding or milestone birthday. Create photo albums, scrap books or slideshows. Document who is who on the backs of every photo. Allocate special items to special loved ones. Secure arrangements for the care of your beloved pets upon your death. Make a collection of poems, bible passages or other writings that bring you comfort.

Just doing these things will empower you, helping to move you through your traumatic grief and nurture acceptance.

The world as we knew it is over, that’s true; that in and of itself is a traumatic loss. Within us lies the capability to create a new world, though.

Let’s make sure we create a better one. #traumatotranscendent