The timing of death – Guest blog by Josephine Payge
The other day I was reminded of how lots of people feel about the timing of a death.
It was when a friend mentioned that she had lost any trust that she would be taken care of now that she had been diagnosed with a rare condition. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to recover and then die from her illness because she feels so let down by life and the universe.
She thinks this way because someone she loved and adored died not so long ago. He had suffered from cancer and had tried every cure in the book but died anyway. Understandably this death seemed wrong to her and she felt that it should never have happened. Her belief in her own healing was shattered because someone she loved had died at the “wrong time”.
Everyone finds death very upsetting, even devastating, especially when it’s someone we love, no matter how old or young that person is. Some deaths are violent, some are peaceful, and they are always distressing. Death is also unpredictable. We don’t know when it will happen, we only know that it will happen. (Unless we plan it of course and a tiny proportion of people do that).
Why is it we find the timing of death so hard to accept?
Is it because the whole idea of death is so difficult to grasp?
This remains true even when we have nursed someone through their illness and have been with them when they are in their final days and hours and minutes and seconds. It is very likely that we are left with the feeling or the belief that the timing was wrong. That our loved one should not have died right then. That this event was meant to happen at another time, later of course, sometime in the future, just not now.
This is not always the case, not everyone feels this way, especially when someone is old and frail, or suffering in pain. In those cases it is much easier to accept that death had to happen when it happened. But when someone we love dies young or in childhood or in the prime of life our reaction is often that this wasn’t right that death happened at the wrong time. How often do we hear “gone too soon, tragically struck down in the prime of life” etc.?
Grief is always difficult and it is made much harder to deal with when we hold to the belief that the person we love died at the wrong time. Thinking this way only serves to exacerbate our pain and make healing difficult.
We can never bring our loved one back even though we would like to do that. When I was in the midst of grief I can remember pleading for my husband to come back even though rationally I knew that this was impossible. I couldn’t accept that he had died when he died. I wanted him to die later when he was older. I was the one who should have died first. But actually this was not about him it was about me, and my fear of living life without him.
But it is possible to see what was good and positive about the time that he died.
The obvious one is that he was no longer in the pain that had become unbearable.
He also didn’t have to worry anymore that his brain was no longer working. He found that aspect of his illness particularly difficult to bear as he had had a brilliant mind.
He didn’t have to deal with the stressful, high profile court case that he was involved in that was going on at that time. Happily there was a successful conviction several months after his death.
He didn’t have to grow old. I’m positive he would not have enjoyed old age. So he will always be remembered as a vibrant, good-looking guy.
He died before me, which is what he wanted.
In his last moments he experienced unconditional love and trust.
And there is so much more that was just plain good.
I mention these things not to diminish the impact of his death but to show that there is always another side and to honour the timing of his death and the way he died. After all, who am I to say that his death should have been different from what it was? Everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Nothing is all bad nor all good. And death is no different. We are simply not encouraged to see it this way.
Because I was fortunate enough to explore his death and all the circumstances surrounding it in a whole and complete way I can now recognise that actually he was not only born on the perfect day but he also died on the perfect day. As a result of this I experience so much peace and serenity, which is in sharp contrast to how I felt before. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Recovering from grief is about being able to look at things in a totally different way and some of the things we can begin to look at are the year, month, day, hour, minute and second the person we loved died.
You may be very surprised at what you discover.
Josephine Payge is the first certified G.R.I.E.F. Guide and her story is very inspiring. To check her site out and follow her take a look over here. I’ll be sharing regular monthly guest blogs from her.