Someone very dear to me had suddenly passed away 10 years ago. At the time, it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. My mind was silenced, shocked, not able to comprehend the then-current situation. It was traumatising. I was stuck. Fight or flight became freeze. For years after the passing, I struggled, moving back and forth through the phases of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I also recently lost a friend to suicide, who could not come to terms with the passing of her husband. She struggled from day to day, stuck in the same cycle of thought and emotion of “why did this happen? Why did this happen to him? Why is this happening to me? How am I going to live without him? Was there something I could have done to prevent it?”
Although the phases of grief are a framework of how we live, frame and identify what we may be feeling after experiencing loss, I still had to find a different perspective on loss as I, after 10 years was still struggling to come to terms with what happened and as people around me and in general are struggling with this inevitable grievance.
People perceive loss in many different ways and have many different ways to cope with it and live on despite the hurt. To some people it is simple and when a person dies, they believe and know exactly where the person is going. To others, it is more difficult as not all of us believe in the same things.
As scientists explain in the National Geographic Series, One Strange Rock, when dust storms rise from a salty desert in East Africa, it is blown over the Atlantic Ocean. 27 tonnes of this dust land in the Amazon basin each year, which is the perfect fertilizer for the plants and trees to grow there. As water is sucked up through the plants’ and trees’ roots, it evaporates and through a combination of sun and wind, forms a flying river of moisture in the air. This river flows through the air to the Andes mountain range, where the moisture condenses into rain drops. The rain fills the rivers. The rivers erode the rocky landscape and the nutrient rich water eventually ends up in the ocean. In the ocean, trillions of Diatoms (microorganisms) are waiting for this nutrient rich water on which they feed. In turn, Diatoms produce the oxygen that we are breathing. When Diatoms die, they fall to the ocean floor creating thick carpets of sediment and over millions of years, Diatom-rich sea beds rise, ocean levels fall and what is left is an ocean floor that becomes a salty desert. The dust that blows over to the Amazon? It turns out they are Diatom shells.
My point is, everything on this earth is interconnected. Everything needs everything else to survive. Essentially, everything on this planet is recycled and reused. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the molecules that we are made up of, are all elements that are continually recycled and reused. Not just by us, but by all living beings on this planet. When life ends for one organism, life begins for another. Energy is passed on and on and on. Like the Diatoms that are producing oxygen for us to breathe and then die to eventually fertilise a forest.
I came to the conclusion that, without looking to any believe system for answers, all life as we know it on this planet is dependent on each other for survival. Focussing my attention to LIFE on this planet, presented me with a different perspective on death. Death is scary, but everything that I have used on this planet while being alive, I can give back when I die. We all give ourselves back to the earth when we die. We can be reused to actuate LIFE for another. I find comfort in that.
Although I can never know if I, or the people I love will live on after death or will be reborn, I find comfort in the fact that we all share the GIFT of life. And when it ends, we “gift” it back. If I look at it this way, is an honour to be alive. And when someone dies, I find comfort in the fact that they are PASSING ON life. Although they are not there in the physical form that we are used to, they will forever continue to exist. Their energy lives on and is passed on.
“We all share the GIFT of life. And when it ends, we “gift” it back”.
If I think of the person I lost 10 years ago, I find comfort in being outside in nature, looking at life around me. The gecko on the wall, the kingfisher in the tree, the 20 year old Yellowwood tree in the garden, the wildflowers in the garden; all reminders that life lives on; that it is the circle of life; that we get the OPPORTUNITY to be part of it… and for that, I am grateful.