Death

I saw a question posed on twitter: “How do you cope with death without God?” and I think I have something to say on the matter. I have gone to over a dozen funerals in my lifetime, and I seem to deal with death well enough. I have experienced one death since I started to think more about God, and I don’t even think God has anything to do with how I cope now, except that I have greater faith that everything is ok. I don’t think you need God for that.

I think one key to processing death, is to give myself permission to feel my feelings, and to recognize my relationship with the deceased person for what it was. This usually means having a good long cry about it. Sometimes the cry has been immediate. One time, I cried for an hour as soon as I found out. Other times it has taken me a week or until the memorial service to actually feel sad in an emotional rather than a rational way. This has little to do with God, and it is a way to cope.

I think one of the most important concepts I have learned in my life is that there are fates worse than death. If you have seen someone dying of something terminal in the hospital, you know this. I believe that all the suffering to be had is here on Earth. Whether or not there is an afterlife (I still don’t believe in heaven or hell) death must be the absence of all earthly suffering. My parents once told me when someone dies, we are sad not for them, but for ourselves.

I guess another slightly related thought is that the death is a part of life. It is inevitable, and has a purpose in our little ecosystem we call Earth. That’s not terribly comforting, but it can help put things in perspective.

I also believe that when people die they aren’t completely gone from our lives. I have had very vivid dreams of them. I like to do things that would make them happy. I tell stories about them. I keep small mementoes that remind me of them. I pray to them as much as I pray to anyone else, and I ask them to give me their strength or whatever I think they could help me with.

Most of the deaths I have experienced have been the end to a long time of suffering, or after a long and fulfilling life, and those deaths are much easier to process from a logical point of view, though it has no effect on how it is emotionally (my emotional attachment to that person dictates that).

The really difficult ones are young people, or anyone who was taken in some sort of way that could have been prevented. I have known two people my own age who died. I have not known any children, though I hear of it every once in a while. I guess those are the ones where religion and faith come in. It’s not logical. It’s not fair. It’s not ok. How do we get past that? I don’t know. I think that if I ever had to deal with that God would be at the forefront of how I dealt with it. I get a much better sense of comfort from wallowing in God’s love, than I do from thinking about how the life cycle of the earth works.

Self-Concept

I just wrote a post about how I feel very lucky to have been born into my particular circumstances, and how I feel sometimes that all that good luck will catch up with me and all the terrible things will happen. Then I have to expect good things. I think there’s a parallel with my self-concept. Let me explain.

I have good self-esteem physically. I have nothing to complain about, or at least nothing to complain about that’s difficult to fix. And I know that I could fix any complaints with a little exercise and healthy eating. My self-esteem related to my personality and personal traits is not as healthy. Most of the time I fee like I’m severely lacking in people skills (like being nice, listening, not being weird and awkward). I think it comes from my tendency to be really hard on myself, my general anxiety and paranoia, as well as my ability to see many things I need work on and want to improve. Everyone who I’ve mentioned this to disagrees with me, which is a good thing. I don’t go fishing for compliments. I genuinely believe I have a lot of room for improvement, but my friends (I really do have some great ones) tell me it’s not as bad as I think it is.

Since I was a shy child, I have told myself that I’m awkward. But I try really hard not to be awkward and most of the time I succeed. I still see myself as awkward. Since I’m honest, I have told myself that my honesty is mean. But I try really hard to be tactful and not say things that are rude or unnecessary. Since I think that a good way to let people know I understand what they’re saying is to relate a similar story of my own, I have told myself that I’m selfish and a bad conversational partner. But I try really hard to notice if someone is enjoying a conversation, and to validate their feelings.

So even though I’m always trying my best to understand how my actions are affecting others, I don’t always have faith in myself. I need to expect good things from myself. And not only expect good things, but I also need to recognize the good things. Trying my hardest is good enough.

Lucky

I’m a lucky girl. I often think about how I was born in the right place at the right time. I had nothing to do with it, but I ended up with a charmed life. I won’t go into all the ways I’m lucky or privileged, but I would like to talk about how it makes me feel.

I always think about how there is balance in the universe and that makes me feel better when I am down, but it scares me because my life is so good. Sometimes I feel like if karma gives me good things after bad things happen to me, or it punishes me for bad things that I do, it will give me bad things because I’ve had so many good things. I also feel like typing these words will bring bad things upon myself, but I refuse to be superstitious. Instead, I remember that sad things will happen to me in my life, and because of my social support and clear thinking that I am so lucky to have, I will be able to deal with it in a healthy way.

I had a counsellor who told me that I had to learn how to expect good things to happen to me. Often, I don’t want to be disappointed when something turns out differently from what I wanted so I just skip a step and brace myself for bad things. There’s no way they’re going to call me after that awesome interview I did. There’s no way that friend will not cancel. There’s no way things will be the way I want them. But they always turn out, eventually. That job called me back, or it wasn’t one that would have worked out. That friend showed up, or I had time to just read my book.

Expecting good things is a difficult habit to start, but I think it’s worth it. Bringing positivity into my life by expecting good things has lifted my mood in general and allowed me to have faith that things will work out. That’s what it is, just having faith that good things will happen to you. There are always at least two ways to spin things, and the more I can spin towards the positive, the better life is.

 

I will continue with these ideas of optimism in another post coming soon.