During the week of 9-15 May, the #BigConversation took place about death and dying. This is the kind of conversation that can happen at any time though and so I am contributing to it this week. I take a broad view of death with a focus on how we are living our lives now no matter how much of our life we have left.
Within the context of many long-term conditions, serious illness/injury, death is ever present and it takes many forms.
In the cases of sudden onset injuries and serious illnesses – heart attack, stroke, brain haemorrhage, traumatic accident, at whatever age – you may have stood on the threshold of death, greeted it, yet were able to turn around and return to your life.
You may have made a decent recovery yet may also live with the background thought of ‘will it won’t it happen again, and if it does, will I survive’. Death can feel like it is just around the corner, but you don’t know where that corner is in your life. You live with that ongoing uncertainty.
Death in the sense of something has ended can also be present in the recovery process as you come to terms with the loss of your previous body and life. In conversations I’ve been having on the concept of acceptance in these situations, an actual end of one’s life is sometimes considered as an alternative to the new reality.
Death is imminently present for those living with terminal conditions.
Death is also present for each and every one of us, no matter the current state of our health. It is a life truth that we will each die one day.
So how do we live our life with this presence of death? And how do we live our life well? These are big questions so I am only addressing it in part. Also, the question may strike you as scary. I find it a scary topic too. I attempt to address it in an introductory sort of way whilst also, I hope, respecting the enormity of it.
Some thoughts on living with death
Death is a large and complex topic which is personal to every individual, so there isn’t one way to live with its presence.
In addition to having a will, knowing your personal preferences regarding end of life care, where and how you wish to die, organ donation, burial, etc and having that written down so your wishes can be followed, I think there is also the consideration of how we are living our lives now.
One day we will all die. And what are we doing with all the days until then? – Unknown
This quote isn’t meant to distract the focus on our ultimate end, to focus on doing and being busy out of fear of death. It is not meant to trivialise death in any way nor the experience of your medical crisis, any ongoing health issues and what that means for how you can live your life.
It is meant to respect what death means for us all, an end to our life, and honouring that truth. It is meant to respect and celebrate the life we have. It is also meant to recognise that can be hard when immediate circumstances are challenging.
So here are some questions for gentle musing. How do you celebrate the good moments in your life? What is it about you that enables you to keep going through the very difficult times? Celebrate those characteristics and strengths of yours. How do you demonstrate respect for yourself and your life? How are you living the life you want and making it happen for yourself? What opportunities do you have to do things you find meaningful and enjoyable?
So try, have a go, make an effort
I was reminded of this positive focus on trying for ourselves and our lives by a woman I once met, who helps people to market their own businesses without being pushy or annoying. In one of her blogs, she compared the benefits of trying to perform CPR on someone to trying to promote your own business.
Her message was you decide to try because it is always worth it. In your own business your efforts may have a positive impact on someone somewhere even if you don’t know the person or how your efforts helped.
And I asked myself, ‘How are we deciding to try for ourselves and our own lives?’ We will know when we have done something good or not so good for ourselves. We will experience the impact. And as for the not-so-good impact, that is also learning.
So try to figure out what is important to you and how you want to live your life. Have a go at living your passions, even if it is in a small way. Make an effort to strive at those activities you enjoy and find most meaningful. You of all people know the preciousness of life. You’ve hit bumps and potholes already and gone on some detours. So grab hold of your life and do what you want to be doing with it. Doing this in small ways counts for everything too.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Martin Luther King
Your life is worth this trying and you are worthy of it.
What’s it like for you?
What steps have you taken to taken to live the life you want during and beyond a health issue or medical crisis? What is helping you to do that? What conversations do you have about death and dying? Share below as your experience may be similar to someone else’s and so demonstrate that no one is alone in this and help them.
Pass it forward
Although these blogs are written in the context of living with serious illness or a chronic condition, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post using the icons below.
I have started to research the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of long-term conditions and serious illness/injury. If you or a loved one experienced the onset of a long-term condition or serious illness/injury in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering with what acceptance means for you, I would love to speak with you. Click here to find out more.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016