How can the presence of death help you live your life well? That question may feel odd to you, off-putting even. Death is something we proactively think about in our society. We tend to only when someone we know dies. Yet within the context of many challenging health issues, death is present and takes many forms.
The many forms death can take
In the cases of sudden onset injuries and serious illnesses – heart attack, stroke, brain haemorrhage, traumatic accident, cancer 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. Challenging health issues often result in the loss of your previous life and your body as you used to know it. In conversations I’ve been having on the concept of acceptance in these situations, people referred to their previous life as having died. They have also referred to thoughts they once had of whether they would end their life as a response to the very big change they have experienced.
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 can the presence of death help you live your life well?
This is a big question 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.
There isn’t one way the presence of death can help you live your life well
Death is a large and complex topic which is personal to every individual, so there isn’t one way to live with its presence. It will be different for each of us.
Sorting the details around end-of-life
In addition to having a will, knowing your personal preferences regarding end of life care, where and how you wish to die (i.e. do you want to die at home if that will be a choice, do you want to be resuscitated, etc.), 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
How are you living your life now?
That 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 isn’t 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; to respect and celebrate the life we have; and 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?
Are you living the life you want and making it happen for yourself within the reality of the health issue you live with?
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 healthy 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 and what helps you to do that? How often do you have conversations about death, dying or loss and what that means for your life now? 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.
If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016