Exploring Thoughts on Our Reaction to Death
As so many people are contemplating the dynamics of Robin Williams’ death and apparent suicide, it’s interesting to see the emotions and levels of expressing those emotions in the masses of people who only knew this individual from his very public life.
Some are saddened and feel they will miss his work and his presence on the planet. Some are outraged and angry at his decision to take his own life. (If it is true)
It appears as if he has broken the one and only collective agreement that we seem to have on this planet, and that is that we agree to never attempt to control our time or method of leaving. We seem to collectively accept that someone can be murdered, or killed in war, or killed in an accident or slowly die of disease of one kind or another. We don’t like those methods much either, but we have a kind of expectation that it ‘could’ happen. When we die through one of those means, we can be angry and usually we try to find something or someone to blame for the death. We often hear that anger is part of our grieving process. When someone’s body is ravaged by disease, we can also be angry at their choices for treatment, or not treatment in ways we find acceptable. We fight the death process for others perhaps even more so than ourselves. We are especially outraged when people die suddenly. We seem to like to have time to adjust to the fact that someone is leaving. We don’t especially enjoy a long lingering death either. Somewhere in between the abrupt and the lengthy seems to be what we have been able to accept collectively. But nevertheless there is usually anger.
That anger, especially when the person who died is close to us, makes sense to our human mind, because of our belief that we lost something in our lives. It is our sense of loss that is so profoundly ingrained in our belief system that creates this emotional response. If we did not believe we lost anything perhaps we wouldn’t feel the anger? But when someone dies at his or her own hand, choses the time and method the anger is so much more vivid. I suspect it is due to the fact that we don’t feel loss in this, we feel cheated. We feel that we’ve been robbed. This is the greatest ‘sin’ in so many people’s belief systems. It’s the one area that we collectively agree we will not break; only God or the Universe or something outside of us can decide this moment.
It’s really an amazing concept to explore. So often we wouldn’t think of telling anyone how to live, how to spend their money, time or which path they must take; but we have absolutely no reservations on telling anyone, regardless of whether we are in a relationship with them or not, that taking their own life is ‘wrong’. In many countries suicide is illegal, (usually only failed suicides can be charged) which has always seemed ironic to me, because what penalty would really deter a person in that mindset?
Life is a gift given and not to be taken by anyone ever; except for specific ways we’ve agreed on. When someone takes someone else’s life we have all kinds of ways to turn that person into a non-human; we call them monsters or vile, or evil or in the case of war, we call them heroes if they are on our side. It’s the only way off the planet and yet we have so many opinions about how it ‘should’ happen. We judge the death process even more critically than the life process, although we are fairly adept at that too.
How we live and how we die are such personal choices, yet we have so much invested in declaring which ways are right and wrong, not only for ourselves but for everyone else. I wonder how we came to these beliefs and how beneficial it is for us to continue to judge each other on either living or dying? Many people died on the same day as Robin Williams, many are being killed in so called justified wars, domestic disputes and so on, yet the media, both mainstream and social media are obsessed with this one man’s decision. For me personally I have noticed that the more public a person lives, the more they give to us collectively the more we have opinions as well as emotional reactions on how they should live and die. Perhaps the more they have given us the more we feel we’ve lost when they transition?
I’m not suggesting that being angry is wrong, or that feeling loss is wrong; it’s just interesting to consider why we feel what we feel. What have we invested in other people’s lives, that give us the right to judge their decisions? Or is their behavior and choices a mirror to our own fear? Are our reactions more about us than they are about the person who died? Do we feel less safe in a world where a person took the ultimate control over their own life and death? What does a person take from the world when they take their own life? They have taken something otherwise we wouldn’t feel anything. They have created a void or a wound in us, in order for us to have a sense of loss and anger at that loss; so what is it? Or did they do anything to us at all? Rather is it possible that the wound was already in us and their choice brought it to our awareness? Is this the lesson of oneness that so many speak of? Is this pain and loss a collective wound that we are all becoming aware of? Is this the glaring light being shone upon darkness within us collectively showing us that we really are all ONE? What happens to one aspect of that Oneness affects us all?
Did the one who died intentionally hurt us? If we believe they did, then why did we give them that power? Is this one very public event a part of our collective learning? What would happen if we didn’t feel so attached to this human experience? I think one of the very basic fears in all of this death process is that we may believe that if we don’t value this life, don’t condemn those who take a life, for whatever reason, their own or someone else’s that somehow everyone will start making those decisions for themselves and we’ll have chaos. Our obsession to avoid pain and feel safe sometimes is greater than our love for self or others. The attachment is the key in my experience. If we are not attached to people or events, then we wouldn’t feel the anger when they leave or stop. We would feel sorrow perhaps, but not this outrage that I see so often.
We do attempt to control how other people live their lives to make ourselves feel safe; hence all the laws but once a death occurs we can’t stop it. It’s the one place where we cannot control another. I suspect the decision is rarely made at this human level anyway, but it is the one place that many of us are really angry that we cannot control.
Is how we die more important than how we live? There in lies the deepest question for me.
This above is an excerpt from Catherine’s new book, ‘Permission to Breath…just don’t get attached’…coming soon 2014!
Catherine Whelan Costen is a published author, blogger and producer/host of online radio Lets Get Real Chattin with Catherine
Her passion is to explore Higher Consciousness and Transforming Fear to move into Freedom with ease and grace.
Read more from Catherine & listen to archived shows at www.lgrcc.com
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