How To Make Death a Happy Thing
Almost three years ago, my grandmother was given a dire prognosis: two weeks left to live. I anticipated the process of her dying to be just as all deaths in my life had ever been: horrible, depressing, but most of all, tragic. I went on this way, ceaselessly grieving, until I received a truly radical proposition: what if I celebrated her dying?
This notion seemed utterly perposterous to me at the time, but I was eager to be taken out of my pain and willing to try on what seemed to be a revolutionary perspective. The effort became revelatory. Never have I been taught a greater lesson.
If you are in a similar place of wanting to be freed of pain, I have laid out the steps that got me to finally believing that death was, in fact, a happy thing. If you try these things on the same way I did, I guarantee you will feel the same swath of peace and joy that I did. The benefits will long outlive you.
1. Let all of the initial grief out.
Our bodies seek to protect us from the unexpected, the unknown, the loss of something we held that seemed stable. Your body will likely react. Let it.
2. Make peace with the past and how life has been thus far.
You already know this: you cannot change the past. You do not have that kind of power. The one power you do have is how you interpret your life. If looking back on the past brings you pain, how can you reframe it so that you feel empowered right now?
3. Start getting excited about the departing’s big adventure.
It is entirely possible for you to see death in a playful way. It is but one more reframe. Do you know what happens when you die? Most people who do know don’t live to tell the tale. The mystery can be exciting if you choose to make it so.
4. Take the time to celebrate the life they’ve had but find ways to celebrate the next one.
Maybe you could interview your loved one. Or interview the people who know them. Where can you find the beauty you may have missed in the grand poetry of their life? And what of the poetry that could come next? Science teaches us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so technically, your loved one, who is made up entirely of energy, isn’t going anywhere. You just won’t recognize them anymore. The new space they occupy could be just as extraordinary.
5. After they go, think about what beautiful lessons they have imparted unto you that you can use in your own life now.
It helped me to think of my loved one as an archetype. I wrote down everything they taught me and combined it into an essence, a character, that I could embody whenever I wanted the strength of their wisdom. How can you do that with your own loved one?
6. Find symbols around you that will connect you to the deceased forever.
My loved one told me that when they died I could find them in the butterflies. Your loved one may not have offered you this, but if you followed Step 5, it may be easier for you to conceive of the places, creatures, or things that leave you feeling as if you are in the presence of the one you love. These things can become your talismans, your touchstones, and help you to know that your connection was never broken by the circumstance of death. Every time I see a butterfly now, I feel utterly supported. What can you create that’s like that for you?
7. Live your life in the present, with the underlying awareness that you too will die.
Be okay with this! This fact need not punctuate your life. It is just a gentle reminder. The more you understand that you too will fertilize the soil and be part of creating new life in the world, the more you can foster peace and confidence around all other fear of “death” scenarios (deaths to your reputation, deaths to your identity, deaths to friendships and romantic relationships to come). Loving the beauty of your own death can make you unstoppable.
8. Celebrate the world of life and the world of death at all times.
Nature, when you pay attention to it, is simply a grand display of transformations. Life into new life. Death to forms, yes, but neverending reconfigurations to all life-force. That is what all of nature is made up of. Cycles, rebirths, transformations. Seeing death in this same way helps you see that your own life is nothing but a series of births and rebirths, deaths to all that is inauthentic, bringing you closer and closer to your truest, most real essence.
I truly hope that this has helped bring you peace. If you’d like to hear the detailed version of my journey in this process, below is a link to a video from my Youtube channel all about the fear of death and how I personally overcame it: