What is your relationship with death?

For most of human history, we have carried life in one hand and death in the other. We lived closer to the earth and witnessed the creation and dissolution of life all around us every day. Death happened in our homes, and we grew up learning from our elders how to tend it.

In the last century, we have increasingly outsourced death, and in so doing, we have lost a part of our humanity; the one thing we all have in common — we are all going to die.

By closing our eyes to the reality of our own deaths, we close our eyes to much of the beauty of life. Isn’t the fact that we are only here on this planet, in these bodies, for a very short period time what makes life so incredibly precious? Picture all of Spring’s flowers now blooming — lilacs, peonies, tulips. Isn’t part of their beauty in knowing that the blooms will only last for a few days?

Part of my work as a death doula is to reconnect people to their own humanness — the part of us that knows how to die and how to help our people die.

In these experiences, I have come to know death as a teacher. The following are a few lessons I have learned:

Replace fear with curiosity.

The subject of fear is way too big to cover here. What I would like you to consider is that fear is not “bad.” Fear is natural — our body’s early warning system. However, we may not be very good at discerning what the warnings mean.

What if instead of being afraid, you got curious? At the root of negative emotions is fear. The next time anger, anxiety, guilt, overwhelm, any less-than-positive emotion arises, simply pause, take a breath, and notice it. Let your body feel it and observe it at the same time. What is it trying to tell you? Is it “real” or something else in disguise? Is there a younger part of you asking for the attention it never received? When we don’t give our pain the attention it is asking for, we offload it onto others or cause dis-ease in our bodies.

Live from the heart rather than the head.

Have you heard the term “monkey mind?” We all have it. Thoughts that endlessly bombard us, storytelling, ruminating, an inability to turn them off. This mental noise is fuel for anxiety and blocks us from hearing the only voice that matters — the one that comes from within.

Thoughts are not real life — they are just thoughts. They are doing their job, which is to distract us from our purpose and cause suffering.

The True voice, the voice of inspiration and intuition, the voice of your own knowing comes from the heart. And it whispers. So, in order to hear it, we need to calm the mind’s noise. Why not invest in yourself by learning how to make it a practice?

Embrace the intelligence of our physical bodies.

I learned this lesson from grief. Obviously, grief is an emotional journey, but what surprised me is how much of grief is physical. I learned that my body knew how to grieve, and if I surrendered to it, it would transform me.

The sensation of an emotion is felt in the body first, the awareness of the emotion follows, and often a story comes next.

Our bodies are super intelligent and are always trying to tell us something. Learn to nurture yourself by listening to what the body is trying to tell you and then give it what it needs.

Recognize what is important (and what isn’t!).

Time and energy are limited resources, and most of what we spend it on isn’t truly important.

Visualize a snow globe, shake it up, and imagine the swirling snow obscuring the objects within it. Now imagine the swirling snow is all the stuff in your life — your job, to-do lists, tasks, schedules, friends and family, chores, obligations, world events — all the busy-ness.

Now, visualize the snow slowly settling. What was hiding is now visible. That’s the important stuff and likely what most aligns with your values and your true Self.

Invest your time and energy there.

Recognize and let go of attachments.

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that attachment is the root of all suffering. In psychology, it is something that the mind grabs on to. The mind comes to see the object of attachment, whether it be tangible or intangible, as having intrinsic value, independent of our relationship to it. It becomes a part of our identity.

It is not the object that causes suffering, it is the attachment to the object. It is conditional — “if I have this, I am happy. If I don’t, I am unhappy.”

Becoming aware of attachments is the beginning of letting go, and letting go is the opening to new possibilities and opportunities to love ourselves and others more deeply and unconditionally.

The death experience is a process of letting go. Instead of our life being a ser

Death doula Michelle Kolling

ies of “first times” and “next times,” it becomes a series of “last times.” In the letting go, what is most important becomes clear and now has room to expand. And what expands is Love, the pure Divine Love of the Universe that exists all around us and within us at all times, the Divine Love that awaits the final letting go of our physical bodies.

What if you lived a life experiencing everything like it was the last time? Would you make different choices, would you be more present, would you savor every experience more richly?

At a recent workshop, I was asked “What is the meaning of death?” It caught me a bit off guard. I paused for a minute, took a breath, and turned my attention inside. “It shows me how to live,” I said. A slow smile spread across her face, and she simply responded, “Good answer.”

As a death doula, death educator, grief relief coach, and life coach, it is my privilege to support others as they create and live a love-filled life until their last breath. If this is something you’d like to explore, reach out to me directly at michelle@heldoula.com.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader.  The views expressed in this article are not a statement of support or endorsement by Schromen Law, LLC.  The information contained herein is not offered as legal or medical advice and should not be construed as legal or medical advice.

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