A post about death, mortality and processing grief

Warning: depressing and potentially triggering post alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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I used to firmly believe, without a doubt, in God, Creator a Higher Being or whatever it is you want to call it. While I’m not at all religious now, I was raised by my devoutly Catholic grandmother who instilled in me a strong sense of faith and spiritual belief. Even though I walked away from the church years ago, I still held my own beliefs about spirituality that suited me and were relevant to my Native American heritage.

Well, in this past year especially, I’m not so sure about that anymore and for the first time in my life, I question everything I have ever believed.

Without getting too long-winded about the road that has led me here, let’s just say I have watched way too many good people around me suffer from misfortune, serious illness and sudden death.

I am mostly a positive person, however all this bad news makes me consider my own mortality and the possibility that something could randomly happen to me and my family. I feel incredibly guilty and selfish for feeling this way when there are so many people around me who are really suffering. My life is a bed of roses compared to some of those who I interact with each day. I count my blessings, all the time.

No so long ago, I would have believed that everything happens for a reason, that bad luck was really fate, and there were important life lessons in hardship to be learned, and blah, blah, blah. This used to make me feel better, but right now it all just feels like platitudes – empty and hollow and only echoes my grief and confusion back to me.

Is there an afterlife, or a God, Creator or Higher Being watching over us? These are questions I contemplated a lot this past year when my beloved auntie Harriet passed away, and recently when a young woman I knew, a 29-year-old single mother of two, suddenly and mysteriously died in her sleep. My aunt’s death I could handle, but the other just seems so random and so cruel. Why why why?

But there is only silence to my pleas, and no solace. There is nothing, just unanswered questions that lead to emptiness and the only thing that fills up the space are tears.

I realize today that I will never know the why’s of any of the tragedies I witness. Nor will I ever know for sure if my Auntie Harriet or my grandmother who raised me are up “there” somewhere watching on me like guardian angels. I will never know why this young woman, who when I last spoke to her (two days before she died) was so full of life and hope, is suddenly gone. Just like that, her life is over, her hopes wiped out, leaving behind two orphaned children, same ages as my own…

….oh Lisa, Lisa, Lisa…

…so random and it scares the hell out of me.

There is nothing that explains any of this to me, comforts my grief, or soothes my fear. Comments like “It was her time…” or “she’s in a better place now…” don’t make me feel better. They make me angry and confused. Who, what and where do I turn to when the beliefs and values that once gave me comfort no longer hold true?

I don’t know what happens after death, if there is an afterlife or if there is a grand plan that will suddenly all make sense to us when our souls leave this earth. And wondering about it doesn’t make me feel any better either, it only makes my fear bigger. The only Life I know about for certain is the one I have right now. This very moment, so short and fleeting, is the only thing I have any guarantee for.

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19 thoughts on “A post about death, mortality and processing grief

  1. podnumber2

    I am in complete agreement with you, and can’t help but repeat a quote I just saw attributed to Mary Oliver – on an advertisement no less – “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I haven’t quite figured that out either, but I aim to make it a good one!

    Reply
  2. EllyWendy

    Oh, honey, I wish there was something I could say to comfort you. Last July my youngest son, 31, died unexpectedly. No sense to it. Several people I know are in serious health crises, some terminal. It (death, grief, bleakness, unfairness) seems to be all around, and sometimes I too feel enraged and baffled by it. But I’m older. It’s not as shocking to me as it is to you. You are so right. Now is the moment. We are alive and blessed to have some loved ones around us. You have the ability to see and capture beauty. A flip side of that is the ability to deeply feel pain. Plus, the Winter is always hard. Here, on the west coast, we have it easy compared to the rest of Canada. But even here people ar desperate for Spring. Let’s hope we all feel better soon. Hang in there, SheBear.

    Reply
    1. callmeshebear Post author

      Hi EllyWendy. I’m so sorry about your son.

      I don’t know if it is my age, turning 40 this year and re-evaluating my life, that this news has spun me into an existential crisis. I’m a social worker and have been witness to some pretty sad situations and bad news in my work for many years now. But I never personalized those things so much as I am now.

      I’m actually doing ok with the winter right now. November and December are my really low months with the winter blues, but yes, I do still look forward to spring.

      Thank you. Your words were a comfort to me.

      Reply
  3. ediebeatscancer

    A few years ago a friend of mine became a father. Ten days later his beautiful child died. When I went to the funeral, saw that tiny white coffin and listened to the wails of the baby’s mother who had milk dripping down the front of her dress — I lost all faith. Why would an innocent baby who appeared to be perfect die? No loving and caring God could be so cruel.

    I don’t know how to lift your spirits and I wish I could. All I know is life is short and we need to cherish every moment we have with those we love.

    Reply
  4. Monique Hohnberg

    Buddhism believes that the inner voice/awareness/wisdom is you and it is this part that more truly understands the nature of this world we have come from and are a part of. Christians believe that when you open your heart to ‘Jesus knocking’ then you have access to this wisdom understanding insights etc. that is God. Me personally …. Like to see God is the higher awareness of this world that is within us all( as we are born from the dust and return to it) and that we have access to.. I kinda don’t overlay this understanding with religious molding . Ie the platitudes you’re talking about. Death happens in the animal kingdom all the time.. We’re part of that too…it’s just the way it is…….. I hope that helps or gives you something to chew on at least.
    Monique, sydney

    Reply
    1. callmeshebear Post author

      Hi Monique. Hmmm…yes, certainly lots to chew on there. I haven’t considered myself religious for a very long time, but now I see how my childhood has influenced me so much in this regard. I have a lot of thinking and feeling my way through this to do.

      Reply
  5. talkerhuge

    I think that everyone of us, at least once in life, has placed these questions… and I’m starting strongly, everyday more, to believe that… as much “sad” or not satisfactory it can be, there is no answer… I mean, it’s like.. 3000/4000 years that cultures (Buddism, Christianity, Muslims and so on) are giving them responses… all because we, as thinking human beings, are in need of answers, well…
    I think that maybe there could be a purpose, or maybe not, but it’s very unrealistic that one of us wakes up having all the answers, or if it does, I can’t be sure it will be the “real one”, maybe it would be the answer we expect to hear… so my point is, we all gonna die, that’s a fact so far, ww cannot change it, but we can sure the hell make our life count, so be marry for having the chance of knowing (even if for few) Lisa and maybe help the two orphaned children she left behind, even if just to let them know that life is short, we have no idea how much we have to live, so they don’t have to waste the precious time they got and even make them merry their mom with your memories too…

    Reply
  6. Cherrie Zell

    Well, I written an awful lot of words for a comment on a post, so I won’t be offended if you don’t get around to reading them until you are feeling a little stronger. It is a rough trot and one that each handles a bit differently.
    I was not put off by your warning at the beginning of your post. In the 26 years since my sister passed away at age 18, there have been many funerals and I now recognise the personal pattern to dealing with the loss.
    A friend came up to me some years ago because she knew what I had been through. She’d just heard bad news about her father. She wanted to talk about the surprisingly selfish reactions of her and her siblings. One even said their first thought was “who will help me with my taxes now”. My reply: “Selfishness at such times is normal. It’s uncomfortable because we’ve been told how everyone is supposed to react. But in the first rush of emotion, it is the gap that is left (or to be left) in our life that attracts our attention.”
    I believe that the aim of spirituality is to allow us to recognise those moments in which we are so so human and then encourage us to find ways of responding a little bit less selfishly. In contrast, the aim of religion is social control (but that’s the sociologist in me talking).
    Philosophers have been grappling with these questions for thousands of years. Even today, there was a post about transcendence on Freshly Pressed. Some years ago, I wrote an essay for uni titled “Who’s afraid of annihilation?” where I compared ideas put forward by some philosophers. Turns out, we all are; we just respond to it differently. It sounds like, having removed some of the responses you were taught as a child, you are now seeing the space that was concealed behind them.
    I like to do an internet search using the words Bede Sparrow to see how this old story is still getting along.

    Reply
    1. callmeshebear Post author

      “…the aim of religion is social control…” Yes! And it’s not only in religion but also in some spiritual communities as well.

      I suppose I am learning what my pattern of response to grief is. It’s confusing and scarey, but I’m certain that I will find my way.

      Thank you Cherrie.

      Reply
      1. Cherrie Zell

        I’m pretty sure you will find your way. When people make those comments about “time”, perhaps some mean that as we get to know our pattern it eventually becomes less confusing and scary. I hope that will be the case.

  7. Jenny

    Grief, when it hits us side on, is brutal. Many of us who have known grief and read your eloquent post will, I’m sure, offer you a virtual ‘hand to hold’ at this time, and for as long as you need it.
    Feeling grief is part of what it means to be human. And having faith, and questioning it, is also a part of what it means to be human, as is perhaps losing that faith, and looking for something new to sustain us.
    Raw, bleak grief of the kind you are feeling, reveals a truth about our lives that is easy to tiptoe around and deny when we are busy doing lots of things, and life is going well.
    I think you are facing that truth right now, squaring up to it, assimilating it. And good for you. It shows that you are strong.
    All we have for sure is ‘here’ and ‘now’. That’s it. When you accept it, life becomes good, real, a celebration.
    Sending you love, Jenny

    Reply
    1. callmeshebear Post author

      Thank you Jenny.

      “Raw, bleak grief of the kind you are feeling, reveals a truth about our lives that is easy to tiptoe around and deny when we are busy doing lots of things, and life is going well.” – Yep. Not that long ago I was feeling great and on top of the world. Facing the truth is not always easy, but I think it’s something we all have to face sooner or later.

      This makes me want to make each day of life count and mean something. Life is too short to do it any other way.

      Reply
  8. robin claire

    You know, I am a Christian – not a Catholic. I see many Catholics who have turned sour toward spirituality because of the way the Catholic church teaches it. They are so condemning! Have you ever visited a non-denominational church where Jesus’ love is expressed in all it glory? There is more to this Jesus stuff then you know. I would urge you to check out the rest of the spiritual life before chucking it all out.
    love to you my friend,
    robin

    Reply
    1. callmeshebear Post author

      Hi Robin. I wouldn’t say that I am chucking all the spirituality out completely. I’m re-evaluating and re-assessing. I wish I could say more but I don’t know which side of this I will come out on.

      I stopped going to church years ago because I felt that it wasn’t the right place for me. I don’t identify with spirituality in that way. I need to find my own way about this.

      Thank you.

      Reply

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