As we see a loved one decline, we brace ourselves for their departure. A lot of our grieving happens before the actual passing. We play out scenarios in our minds of how the world will be without this wonderful being. We preconceive the emotion of loss in the hopes that it will prepare us. Some of that is true: whenever our mind runs through scenarios of how it will feel to receive condolences, we try on the emotional reality of what’s to come. And in this way, the beloved person dies a little at a time, inside us. On an energetic level, this is a very natural and helpful method, as also the dying person senses our sadness and premonition of the impending transition and learns to embrace the reality of what’s to come, as reflected by us.
While most of this preparation and preemptive grieving occurs as part of the natural wisdom of our bodies to protect us, there is another kind of preparation we can do consciously: we can consciously connect and align with the spirit energy that is harbored in the body of the dying. This can happen without words, just by sitting bedside and opening our life energy to them. If we really tune into them, without an agenda or wish, sometimes after hours we get a strong feeling of a virtual download in process. The dying person is sharing their life review, their life’s mission, images and feelings without a word. We can sense their memories flashing before our eyes, sometimes in rapid succession, without linear storytelling.
To me, this has been one of the most amazing gifts of accompanying the dying process: to receive downloads of entire lifetimes – experience, wisdom and learning that is precious beyond words. We were made to believe all this would be lost forever once our physical brain shuts down in death. But this is not my experience. Having accompanied hundreds of people during their transition I’ve experienced a non-verbal and horizontal passing-on of information – not just through genetics or from generation to generation, but telepathically, between living entities. To most people, this possibility seems so unbelievable that they are only “free” to experience it when death is close and they have already glimpsed the wisdom of the other side. From the perspective of the dying, many self-imposed limitations of how we can share consciousness or not simply fall away.
When the rational, “trained” mind shuts down, the profound, inexplicable knowledge we all harbor inside us takes over. Nothing any of us has ever experienced or learned is ever lost with death. It is my experience that all this information is absorbed into the big consciousness that connects all beings – and that we so often ignore in order to maintain artificial divisions between us.
For most people, being with a dying person or animal takes a little practice: it’s hard to “be with suffering” in a peaceful way. To be with the certainty of impending loss places most people far outside their comfort zone. And instead of stretching into it, instead of birthing a new part of ourselves, we find an excuse and escape. But our presence at a bedside benefits both, the dying and the witness. The more we expose ourselves to this precious experience, the more we open up to let the download occur – without judgment, without fear or a need to control. Being with the dying opens up an integral part within us that reconnects us to the innate living quality in EVERYTHING around us. It also teaches us that when we manage to give up control, if only we manage to trust, we will be held in love. It takes the fear away of dying. And this in itself is a tremendous gift.
Once we have experienced the download from a dying person, we find ourselves open to receive the download from a living person, from an animal, from a tree, or a rock. At this point, the wisdom has entered us that EVERYTHING shares consciousness with us, even though it might be in a different language and frequency. It’s a blessed state of being that many religions have called Oneness-consciousness. In fact it has nothing to do with any particular religion. It’s about listening with an open heart to everything and everyone we encounter. It’s about the awareness that there is something to learn from everyone, to teach to everyone, to love in everyone.
If the dying person is conscious and interested in this alignment and alliance, it is a good idea to talk about how you will stay connected even as they move into another dimension. Some people arrange signs to signal their presence, even though they no longer inhabit their body. Once a soul journeys to the other side, they can fully see and witness our world and actions from a much broader perspective. Initially they are confused and fearful about why no one talks to them anymore. They feel ignored and want to participate. Many old cultures developed ceremonies to make the dead feel included: the table is laid for them. The dead are directly addressed in communication. Gently, they are being told they have passed (many don’t understand right away) and that they are now part of our revered ancestry, with an ongoing important place in our lives.
The first days after a death occurs are often passed in a numbed blur: so much to organize! There seems to be no time for feelings, only for paperwork, arrangements and phone calls. Many people only come to their senses once the urn stands on the mantle piece or the grave is closed. And if unprepared, this moment might hit them like a blow.
Even if we have the awareness of continuation beyond death, and even if we are in contact with the other side and have received clear signs of their ongoing presence, there is grieving. It is very important to honor this human part within ourselves that is attached to a physical presence: touch, smell, the sound of the beloved voice on an old recording – memories, photos and videos can all be bitter-sweet triggers. Please be gentle with yourself in walking through the valley of tears. Prepare yourself as if going for a trip into the desert: take some provisions and make a return plan. If you spend two days crying with a dark cloud over your head, give yourself a well-deserved break and go out into nature, watch a movie or meet friends. Grieving is not just hard work, it’s “heart work”. Your heart is stretching. It feels like birth and it HURTS. Don’t fight the pain, place your hands gently on your heart, breath into your heart, find your way back to loving and supporting yourself throughout the experience. It DOES get easier. And when you emerge on the other side of the tunnel, you will notice a softening inside you, a newfound capacity for compassion, gratefulness and love that will make you a bigger person for the rest of your life.
Some people get stuck in the anger-loop of grieving: they consider the world unfair and fall into victim-mode. Their heart closes and bitterness and anger might carry them for a while, since these are also strong energies. Eventually, this interruption of the natural healing process also stalls energies in other areas of their lives and they experience problems at work, with friends and family and eventually develop health issues. It is in our own best interest to let the feelings of grief wash over us in contained installments. Grief needs not derail us completely nor be suppressed in ways where our entire energy flow of life is suppressed as well.
A helpful rule of thumb for me has been: in the first month after a loss, just be supportive and gentle with yourself, allow yourself crying fits and share your feelings and stories with friends. Back yourself up by treating your body well: eat well, sleep a lot, get massages, acupuncture and cuddle a lot. When we’re grieving, our body always takes the first hit. We assume it’s our mind that bears the heaviest burden, but our body reacts to emotional pain as it does to a physical injury. The immune system is compromised and a constant secretion of cortisol (stress-hormones) keeps us on the edge, keeps us from sleeping and from digesting food properly – we might even feel stings to the heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a heart attack. It means your heart hurts from the emotional stretching. You need emotional nourishment and gentleness, not pills and diagnostic overkill.
If after two month you just can’t get yourself out of a funk, seek help: reach out to local bereavement groups or seek grief-counseling to get to the underlying issue that is not being addressed. In this case, the loss has probably triggered an earlier trauma in your life that is the actual underlying cause of your pain. Grieving the loss of a loved one can become a great hideout: everyone is supportive and “understands,” but the current loss only covers over a much greater loss that you must have experienced in the past. No one can hide forever without paying a price: cutting off sadness too early also leads to involuntarily avoiding other strong emotions like joy and excitement. Take good care of yourself! Be courageous and make an appointment to seek help. Do this for yourself, out of love – for your beautiful heart that endured so much and needs your help to heal itself.
Great loss and grief does change our lives and our selves. It’s supposed to. If we work with it, it opens us up emotionally; we experience this world deeper and become more fearless in our lives. It’s a blessing wrapped in painful ribbons. Take courage, you will make it through!