Posts tagged with ‘grief’

26 jul

Embrace Death, Live Life

MikeRobbinsNewMy mom, Lois Dempsey Robbins, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in early March. The disease spread very quickly and on June 13th, she passed away. I was honored and grateful to be with her through her dying process. It was both horrible and beautiful at the same time.

My mom’s physical pain and deterioration, realizing that she was going to die and that at thirty-seven years old I would be without either of my parents (my dad died almost ten years ago), and knowing that my girls would grow up without their grandma (who absolutely adored them), were some of the most difficult parts of the experience.

However, the closeness, family connection, deep conversations, healing, insights, love, forgiveness, and support have been some of the most wonderful aspects of all of this – while she was sick, as she was dying, and in the past month or so since her death.

Four of the most intimate and sacred experiences of my life have been the births of our two girls and the deaths of each of my parents. I’m grateful and honored to have been able to experience all four of these magical moments live and in person. Although the emotions of the births and the deaths were quite different, the level of intimacy, sacredness, and profundity were of similar impact and depth for me.

I’m deeply engaged in my grief process right now – doing my best to stay present in the midst of the intense and contradictory thoughts and feelings I’ve been experiencing. While I’ve been feeling sadness and pain, I also feel a lot of love and appreciation – both for my mother’s life and all she taught me, and for the experience of being with her through her death.

Death teaches us so much about life and about ourselves, even though it can be very difficult to comprehend and experience – especially when the person dying is someone very close to us. As a culture we don’t really talk about it, deal with it, or face it in an authentic way. It often seems too scary, mysterious, personal, loaded, heavy, emotional, tragic, andmore.

What if we embraced death – our own and that of those around us – in a real, vulnerable, and genuine way? What if we lived life more aware of the fact that everyone around us, including ourselves, has a limited amount of time here on earth?

Embracing death consciously alters our experience of ourselves, others, and life in a fundamental and transformational way. It allows us to remember what truly matters and to put things in a healthy and empowering perspective. Doing this is much better for us than spending and wasting our time worrying, complaining, and surviving the circumstances, situations, and dramas of our lives, isn’t it?

One of the most profound things my mom said a few weeks before she died was, “I want people to know that they don’t have to suffer through this.” As the end was getting closer, my mom’s awareness, insight, and desire to share her wisdom increased and it was beautiful.

Below are some of the key lessons I learned from her as she began to embrace death in the final days and weeks of her life. These are simple (although not easy) reminders for each of us about how to live life more fully:

1. Express Yourself – Say what you have to say, don’t hold things back. As my mom got closer to death, she began to express herself with a deeper level of authenticity and transparency. We had conversations about things we’d never talked about and she opened up in ways that were both liberating and inspiring. Too often in life we hold back, keep secrets, and don’t share what’s real – based on our fear of rejection, judgment, and alienation. Expressing ourselves is about letting go of our limiting filters and living life “out loud.”

2. Forgive – My mom and I come from a long line of grudge holders. Like me, she could hold a grudge with the best of ‘em. I watched as she began to both consciously and unconsciously let go of her grudges and resentments, both big and small. It was if she was saying, “Who cares?” When you only have a few months (or weeks) to live, the idea that “Life’s too short,” becomes more than a bumper sticker or a catch phrase, it’s a reality. And, with this reality, the natural thing for us to do is to forgive those around us, and ourselves.

3. Live With Passion – Going for it, being bold, and living our lives with a genuine sense of passion is so important. However, it’s easy to get caught up in our concerns or to worry what other people will think about us. My mom, who was a pretty passionate woman throughout her life, began to live with a deeper level of passion, even as her body was deteriorating. In her final days and weeks, she engaged everyone in conversation, talked about what she was passionate about, shared grandiose ideas, and let go of many of her concerns about the opinions of others. It was amazing and such a great model and reminder of the importance of passion.

4. Acknowledge Others – At one point about a month or so before my mom died she said to me, “It’s so important to appreciate people…I don’t know why I haven’t done more of that in my life.” Even in the midst of all she was going through and dealing with (pain, discomfort, medication, treatment, and the reality that her life was coming to an end), she went out of her way to let people know what she appreciated about them – and people shared their appreciation with her as well. My friend Janae set up a “joy line” for people to call and leave voice messages for my mom in her final days. We got close to fifty of the most beautiful messages, all expressing love and appreciation for my mom – most of which we were able to play for her before she passed away. Appreciation is the greatest gift we can give to others – and, we don’t have to wait until we’re dying to do it or until someone else is dying to let them know!

5. Surrender – While my mom clearly wasn’t happy about dying, didn’t want to leave us or her granddaughters, and felt like she had more to do on this earth, something happened about a month and a half before she died that was truly remarkable – she surrendered. For my mom, who had a very strong will and was a “fighter” by nature, this probably wasn’t easy. However, watching her surrender to what was happening and embrace the process of dying was truly inspirational and life-altering for those of us around her and for her as well. So much of the beauty, healing, and transformation that occurred for her and for us during her dying process was a function of surrendering. Surrendering isn’t about giving up, giving in, or selling out, it’s about making peace what is and choosing to embrace life (and in this case death) as it shows up. Our ability (or inability) to surrender in life is directly related to the amount of peace and fulfillment we experience.

My mom taught me and all of us that even in the face of death, it is possible to experience joy – what a gift and a great lesson and legacy to leave behind. And, as each of us consciously choose to embrace the reality of death in our lives, we can liberate ourselves from needless suffering, worry, and fear – and in the process experience a deeper level of peace and fulfillment.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

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Posted by Mike Robbins on July 26th, 2011 in New Directions, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , ,

14 jul

The Magic and Mystery of Death

MikeRobbinsNewIn the past few weeks, two important people in my life suddenly passed away. These deaths have been shocking, sad, and painful for me. And, in the midst of sadness I’ve once again been reminded of the mystery and magic that I often experience when someone close to me dies.

I find death so mysterious because it doesn’t make much rational sense and often seems so random and unfair. I also find it frustrating that we don’t do a very good job in our culture of talking about, dealing with, or embracing death. It’s seen by most of us as a universally “bad” thing – awful, tragic, painful, hard, and negative in most cases. While all of these things can be and often are true for us about death, especially when the person who dies is someone we love and care about and/or happens to be someone we consider “too young to die,” there is so much more to it than just this.

As I’ve also experienced these past few weeks and at many other times in my life, there can be a great deal of magic, beauty, and joy that comes from death. Due to the fact that we often avoid it, don’t want to talk about it, or would rather not deal with it (unless we are forced to do so) – we miss out on the magical and positive aspects of death and in doing so we aren’t able to live our lives as deeply and with as much freedom as we could if we embraced death more fully.

Why we avoid dealing with death

There are many reasons we avoid dealing with or even talking about death. From what I’ve seen and experienced, here are some of the main reasons:

It can be very painful, sad, and scary

We often aren’t taught or encouraged to really deal with it – just to simply follow the “rules” and rituals of our family, religion, or community in order to get through it

– We don’t know what to say, how to react, and don’t want to upset people

– It can be overwhelming for many of us to consider our own death, or the deaths of those close to us

– We aren’t comfortable experiencing or expressing some of the intense emotions that show up for us around death

– Our culture is so obsessed with youth, beauty, and production (in a superficial sense), death is often seen as the ultimate “failure” – the complete absence of beauty, health, and productivity

– It challenges us to question life, reality, and our core beliefs at the deepest level

For these and many other reasons, death is one of the biggest “taboo” subjects in our culture and remains in the “darkness” of our own lives on a personal level. Sadly, not dealing with, talking about, or facing death in a real way creates a deep level of disconnection, fear, and a lack of authenticity in our lives and relationships.

The magic of death

What if we embraced death, talked about it, or shared our thoughts, feelings, questions, concerns, and more about it with the people around us? While for some of us this may seem uncomfortable, undesirable, or even a little weird – think how liberating it would be and is when we’re willing to face death directly.

One of the highlights of my life was being in the room with my father and holding his hand when he took his last breath about 10 years ago. It was incredibly sad, but at the same time deeply intimate, personal, and beautiful. He was there when I came into the world and I got to be there when he left. And, by facing death in a direct way – we can learn so much about life and ourselves, as I did when my dad died. As one of my mentors said to me years ago, “Mike, if you live your life each day more aware of your own death, you will live very differently.” This is true for all of us.

There are so many beautiful lessons that death teaches us, even in the midst of the pain, loss, confusion, anger, fear and more. When we’re willing to embrace death and remember that everyone and everything in physical form will eventually die, we’re reminded to:

– Appreciate ourselves, each other, and life – RIGHT NOW

– Let go of our attachment to other people’s opinions, our obsession with appearances, and our self consciousness about many superficial aspects of our lives

– Connect to others in a deep, intimate, and vulnerable way

– Speak up, go for what we truly want, and live in the present moment

– Be grateful for what we have and for life as it is, not “someday” when things work out perfectly (which never happens anyway)

Death can be one of the greatest teachers for us in life – but not if we spend most of our time avoiding it because it can be painful, scary, or uncomfortable. Take a moment right now to think about some of the important people who have died in your life. What did you learn from them both through their life and their death? What gifts have you been given in the form of tragedy in your life? How could embracing death more fully impact your life in a positive and important way?

As we consider these and other questions about death, it’s obvious that the answers aren’t simple and easy…neither is life. However, when we’re willing to engage, embrace, and deal with death (and life) with a true sense of empathy, passion, and authenticity – we’re able to not only “make it,” but to actually learn, grow, and thrive – regardless of the circumstances and even in the face of death.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on July 14th, 2011 in General, Personal Stories, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

17 aug

Authenticity

The honeymoon is over and we find that dining by candlelight makes us squint,

And that all the time

I was letting him borrow my comb and hang up his wet raincoat in my closet,

I was really waiting

To stop letting him.

- Judith Viorst

Many of us are “someone else” in the beginning of relationships lest the person we are attracted to really see who we are. Therefore who they fall in love with is not us at all and who we fall in love with are not them at all.

When we start to “stop letting them” do all the things we let them do, that is when the battle begins. They are shocking us; we are shocking them. We try to talk it out and find we are speaking different languages.

The rest of the relationship is devoted to battling it out with this person and sighing and dreaming of the person we fell in love with and waiting for him or her to come back. Newsflash: Who you are fighting with is who they really are. The person you are now dancing the destructive dance with is who they really are just as your person is who you really are.

Sometimes people give us hints as to who they really are in the beginning and we choose to ignore it. Later on it becomes a battle. We can’t say they didn’t give us the information. Sometimes the warning is more than a glimpse, it’s a billboard. Later we will find ourselves saying, “I should have known when….”

Yes hindsight is 20/20 but when we are willfully blind, it is not that we can’t see…it is that we choose to not see. We got into this relationship, we had hopes for it…we’re not too upset right now…it’s only one indiscretion, only one slip up…it means nothing…everyone makes mistakes…everyone is human….

Stop ignoring red flags that let you know, in living color, that you are not going to make it with this person. Stop excusing inexcusable behavior early on that you will not excuse later on. Stop being someone you are not. Be authentically you from the beginning and don’t give your heart away too early.

Use the early stages to OBSERVE who this other person is and allow him or her to respond and react to who you REALLY ARE. If you realize, several weeks into it, that you simply don’t communicate the same way, don’t see important things the same way, and are destined to fight over things neither of you will budge on…it’s NOT the relationship for you no matter how wonderful things seemed a few weeks earlier. Learn to distinguish between “good vibes” and “good early compatibility” and the ingredients to a successful, long-term relationship. Don’t be so swept away by the early signs of goodness that you miss the later signs of not-so-good.

To learn to be okay with who you are is a big step. But learning to figure out who someone else is…really is…is a bigger step. Before you start dating think about what you want and what things are non-negotiable. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Stand up for something or you’ll fall for anything.” If you don’t know who you are and what you want, you will just go with the flow in a relationship that has “DOOM” written all over it.

Without early authenticity and early objectivity, true love and good relationships cannot and will not develop. Stop chasing the drug of puppy love and learn to keep your head screwed on a little straighter during the early stages of courtship. Observe. Observe. Observe. Keep the checks and balances. Know who you are and what you want. And be ready to walk away when it’s clear that the relationship is never going to be all that you want it to be.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Susan J. Elliott on August 17th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

11 may

Asleep in Beauty’s Lair

belle endormie
belle endormie, by colodio


“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ~Arundhati Roy

::

I first was introduced to this amazing woman when I read her first and only novel, The God of Small Things, in 1997. In this book, Roy writes about the many varied faces of love…and there are many. Her words are beautiful. They are real. They are alive.

When I first read this quote, so many things jumped out at me. I had to read it over and over, letting what she was really imparting, that transmission between the words, fill me with its wisdom.

What I love about her words is the raw truth she shares. In a world that is filled with so many ways to turn away from reality, including the one I’ve flirted with for so long, that of being a spiritual seeker, she calls me back to reality. Reality in all its rapturous beauty, vulgar disparity, unspeakable violence. Reality where I am utterly insignificant – simply one of billions of people existing on this planet right now, and just one of a gazillion forms of life on mother earth.

In most places, we’re encouraged to see our specialness, to pump ourselves up with our own importance, breeding a kind of heirarchical sense to one’s existence. To never forget my own insignificance reduces that sense of importance and specialness. Somewhere in this insignificance is true humility…

What comes to me from this quote is her pure love for this life. And her inviting us to open our eyes, our hearts to the fullness of human experience. Opening to life fully, all of it. To embrace the paradox of joy in the saddest places, opening to beauty in the most raw, painful moments of life.

::

My seeking began at a young age. I grew up in a family without religious dogma. We did go to church, occasionally. At the same time, Mom and Dad had their own belief systems about God. How could you not, growing up in this western culture? The wonderful thing they did pass on was a thirst to know, a longing to know the real God. I remember the longing in my heart, as a young girl, filling me with ache. A longing that kept at me, and kept at me, and kept at me….

Throughout my early adult years, I was busy raising a family, working, building our own home, doing things people do in everyday life. Normal, mundane things. Sometimes the longing would peek through in these simple moments of the day. My heart would ache, tears would well up, a sense of emptiness would make itself known. Immediately, my mind would jump in, wondering what was missing. Thoughts would jump in, convincing me that there was something I had to find ‘out there’, something I would have to do one day, something somewhere that would satisfy this longing. My mind always looked to the future as the storehouse of what my heart was longing for. My heart simply felt emptiness, some deep sadness, aching, hungering, longing…

::

When my late husband died suddenly, at 4 in the morning, my heart was torn open. Torn. Open. His heart exploded, mine tore open. It was a place of no mind. Just sheer raw pain. Enough pain to put me in shock. I wandered in this desert for a long time. I wished I could be more there, more present, more mother, more together. But I wasn’t.

::

I searched for a way to live with this ragged, jagged heart, ’cause it wasn’t going away. If I tried to talk myself out of this place, my heart would have no part of it. It knew. It knows. The heart knows the wisdom of grief, the intelligence of the process of moving through it all, the joy that is waiting on the other side, the broken-open heartedness that is waiting if one is willing to keep inviting it in.

I realized the profound beauty in this process of grief and in this place of broken-open heartedness. Others I shared this beauty with couldn’t understand my use of that word. Beauty in grief? Beauty in death? Beauty in such profound pain? Yet, the profound aliveness I finally felt after 38 years of closed-heartedness was breathtakingly beautiful, because of just that…the profound aliveness that poured out of my broken-open heart.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not romanticizing death. I’m not minimizing the pain my children went through, my husband’s mother went through, our family went through, or I went through. Minimizing pain does not bring beauty. Feeling pain does. Indulging in pain, does not bring beauty. Experiencing pain does.

It would have been so easy to die while I was alive. A part of me wanted to. Simply to numb it and get on with life. Many people encouraged that. But something, and it certainly wasn’t my mind, wouldn’t let me…my heart knew the pain was my doorway in, the doorway in to that which I had been longing for.

::

Nothing in life is a straight linear line. Instead, it seems to move in spirals, in every increasing circles of wisdom and understanding. As the longing grew, I became a seeker. A seeker of that which would satisfy this longing. A seeker of that which would end the pain. A seeker of that which would fill the hole. I was pursuing this ‘beauty to its lair’.

All along I thought “I” was seeking, that I had the power to find this source of beauty. All along I thought my seeking was going to bring home the bounty of beauty, as if I could really find this beauty in its lair and capture it for my own pleasure.

The seeking was trying to ‘do’ the longing in the only way my very humanness could. The seeking was necessary, but it was never in charge. The seeker can’t find the lair. But the pursuit brings forth beauty. It’s the nature of the paradox of our existence. Both divine and human. Both heart and mind. Both being and doing. The paradox of seeking is that in the seeking we find that which could never be captured, and we find that seeking is really keeping us from that which we seek.

::

All along what I was seeking was right here within me, surrounding me, hidden in the one place I never thought to look. What I was longing for has been here all the time.

Sometimes it takes going on a hunt for it, pursuing it to land’s end, to know it has been right here all along. Here in the midst of the turmoil. This is the goddess. This is discovering light in all our broken places.

Beauty’s lair is all around us, yet we’ll only catch glimpses until we open to the grace that is always here, the grace that invites us to open our hearts to our own insignificance.

We are swimming in our own insignificance. Just look out your eyes at the wonder life is. We are a tiny insignificant part of this life, yet the paradox is when we realize our insignificance we realize that our being here is immensely significant.

::

The only thing that causes us to lose this dream Roy speaks of is the belief we are separate. The illusion of separation is what allows us to turn away, to get used to the unspeakable happenings of our time, to believe we are more significant than another being, or even the earth itself.

The only dream worth having is the dream that is no dream. It is the awakening to what is right in front of us, behind us, all around us…the infinite that has no edges, top, bottom…the infinite that is missing nothing, that holds everything.

In this great infinite that is reality, what I am is insignificant, and completely significant. What I have to offer cannot be offered by any other. And in the totality of it all, I am but a drop in the ocean.

My humanness, that insignificance, is the great gift, because there I find humility and awe. To embrace it all, even those things I desperately want to turn away from, is to be in right relationship with life. Joy can be found in those sad places. Suffering can be our doorway in, in to a place of lightness of being, and broken-open-heartedness.

::

As Roy says, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

This is the world of the goddess, the world we awaken to when we come out of our slumber enough to realize that all along we’ve been sleeping in beauty’s lair.

::

And, you?

I’d love to know what you’ve discovered in beauty’s lair.

image by Colodio, licensed under CC 2.0

Julie Daley is a coach, creativity catalyst and consultant. She works with women who ache to come home to themselves, and want to live from the truth they discover when they do. Find out more at UnabashedlyFemale.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Julie Daley on May 11th, 2010 in New Directions, Personal Stories, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , ,