In modern society death has transitioned from a natural process that happens to everyone and an integrated part of our lives, to something foreign to be fought at all costs and to be pushed aside, marginalized, when it happens.  It’s like an ax that falls and some of us are not fast enough to avoid it.  It cuts through everything and there is only devastation and wreckage left behind that someone needs to clean up.

Death can sometimes be like an ax when it is sudden and untimely.  A life can be ‘cut short’ and leave everyone connected to it ‘at loose ends’ trying to figure out the why of it and trying to refashion their lives without that person in it.  And death can be gradual and experienced as a struggle or as a graceful relinquishment of life.  In any case, we seem to have managed to have allowed our admiration of and belief in the individual to influence our experience of death as focused solely on the person transitioning.  Because in the end we all die alone.  And I don’t disagree with that. Death is a very personal process.

However, it is not an individual process unless we have lived in a vacuüm.  Even if the person leaving has been an island all their life, it is highly unlikely that they will leave without affecting someone else, whether that is a caregiver in a hospital, a neighbor that checks on them, or first responders that do a safety check on their house.  Most of us are not islands and have family and friends who will be greatly affected by this event.  And the grieving and ending process that they experience is something we need to reintegrate into daily life.  Allowing people to cry not only on the day of the event but for 6 weeks or 6 months afterward as their life changes and they heal.  Allowing people to work through their relationships with the transitioning person and realize that they are neither insignificant nor ancient history.  In a world of immediate results and non-intimacy, the ending of a person’s life is a wealth of healthy, heart wrenching, life altering emotion for all involved.

The gift of letting go is something our culture desperately needs to reintegrate into society.  Bring back the professional wailers so we know that it is all right to cry.  Remember that it is all right to be cracked open and vulnerable to the devastation of loss.  Because once the tidal wave passes, we will see that we still remain and with less fear and an increased ability to fully and completely connect.