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Things I’ve Learned From Death

It’s been nearly three weeks now since my mother passed away from pancreatic cancer. In that time I’ve come to experience a variety of things, felt a myriad of emotions, and pondered life from a variety of angles. Three weeks after, here are some of the things that I’ve found.

  1. You will go through a variety of emotions
  2. Everything and anything will remind you of them
  3. You will more than likely experience a harder impact a short time after rather than immediately after
  4. You will re-evaluate your priorities in life (more than usual)
  5. You will smile as you remember you can carry on their legacy and memory
  6. You may burst into tears at any given moment
  7. You must carry on with life
  8. Sometimes you will feel social, other times quite anti-social
  9. Sometimes you will want to be mellow, other times go absolutely wild
  10. You must remember to see and appreciate the positive

Ok…so now that we’ve got the basics, let’s explore these a bit more in depth. Perhaps some of you are experiencing all of this right now, perhaps some of you are about to experience it. Hopefully this can help prepare you for what is to come in life.

1) The emotions…egads. You’ll go from sorrow (“I miss her”) to anger (“It’s just not fair. Why did this happen to somebody so good for the world?”) to every other emotion in the book…and then you’ll be numb at times as you get ready to make the move to yet another emotion or simply the same one again after a breather.

2) The reminders…they’ll happen everywhere. Of course there will be the obvious, such as seeing something they gave to you, something they really liked, a song, a smell. Other things will suddenly appear. For example, I drink coffee and I drink tea. However, I was drinking a LOT more tea as I spent the last few months with my mother. I was making tea shortly after she passed and I stopped what I was doing and thought about her. Even though it was something I had done for years before, it was suddenly something that reminded me of her.

3) Immediately after my mother’s death, I was fine. I guess I was still in “go mode” taking care of this and that and preparing for what was to come. Friends even toasted me and said “I have no idea how you do it”. However, once the dust settled and things slowed down, it really started sinking in. Wow…she really is gone…

4) Some people tend to re-evaluate their priorities from time to time. Big events (birth, death, sickness, marriage, etc) tend to be great catalysts for this. Some people tend to do this more often than others. Death however certainly makes you take pause. How can I change my diet so this doesn’t happen to me? Am I living life to the fullest? Do I really care about this as much as I believe I do? Who do I want to be? Where do I want to go in life? Use this opportunity to make yourself a better person for yourself and for those around you.

5) Needless to say, if you’re feeling a bit devastated by the death of someone then it’s safe to assume that they impacted your life greatly. Carry on their memory and their legacy with pride.

6) The free flowing tears can jump out of nowhere and grab you. Obvious times will be those memories mentioned previously. Yet other times you may find yourself bawling your eyes out for no known reason. Embrace it…sometimes you need a good cleansing. Perhaps you will come to realize later what set you off, perhaps you won’t. Don’t worry about it. It’s normal…and it’s healthy.

7) Some people completely shut down when they grieve. Whereas some down time is good for grieving, shutting down completely for an extended time isn’t the healthiest thing to do. Not only that, do you think the deceased would be pleased to know you weren’t carrying on with life? Not really. Mourn…it’s natural. But we must carry on with life. Let us carry on with more vigor as we look at those new priorities in life.

8) Sometimes you’ll want to be out and about and socialize with the people. Sometimes you won’t. There’s no real telling when you’ll feel one over the other. Again, it’s another natural thing. Go with it. Just make sure you do what’s best for you. Don’t be forced to go out if you need your alone time. Don’t stay at home wrapped up in the blanket if you need to be around friends. Do what you must.

9) Just as with the previous point, there will be times you’re feeling quite mellow and just want to chill (in or out of the house…either way, you’re feeling mellow). Then there are the times you’ll just want to go nutty and experience life to the fullest. You’ll want to be daring and wild or experience things you’ve only dreamed about before. Do both (within reason). If you’ve got a wild hair, do it. If you want to chill to a movie, do it.

10) As hard as it may seem, good things can come out of all of this. We must remember to keep our eyes open and see the positive. More importantly, we must remember to appreciate the positive and continue to do so. Perhaps you’ve gained new views on life. Made new friendships. Tightened the bonds with those close to you. Whatever the case may be, let’s appreciate the positive and not dwell on the negative.

This obviously isn’t the most comprehensive list but it’s a good basis of what many of us will go through or what we are currently going through. We can only hope to continue to learn through life’s lessons and to live each day to the fullest. The death of a loved one sucks…there is no doubt about that. It sucks big time, and there are times where you just want to scream, cry, do nothing, do something extreme…who knows. It’s ok. Take solace in the fact that after the ebb of each wave there is the flow to help push you along.

For those of you who are on the verge of losing a loved one or who have just recently lost someone close, my heart goes out to you. I hope this short list can help you prepare for what you may feel and I hope that it helps you realize that you are not alone. We are all in this world together and life can be so much richer if we help each other out.