WHEN DEATH SPEAKS:Listen, Learn, and Love - by Stephen Lloyd Garrett
I know the author isn't trying to convince you that you need to love the idea of death. His goal is to give you information, change your mindsets about death so that it is treated with the same love and respect birth is. We welcome a new baby because of its possibilities, its opportunities to become something, someone unique.
Stephen's experiences with death, especially his grandfather's, when he was twelve, made him wonder why people couldn't answer his questions and later why most people either denied the reality of death or just avoided discussing it.
As an adult he traveled the world and was surprised at how some cultures not only treated death as a natural extension of the cycle of life, but they celebrated the person's death as an adventure into new realms. He compared how North Americans generally were at a total loss how to react, to feel, to mourn, to grieve, and how those around them were made uncomfortable.
In our interview we discussed how most people either say things like - "He's in a better place now." - "She was ready to go and now she's happy."
Or, they mumble something barely audible because they're afraid they'll offend the grieving one. Stephen states that you can't go wrong by reaching out to touch, hold a hand, or give a comforting wordless hug. It shows you care and opens the door for the other to respond in a way that fits her mode of grieving.
I took twenty years to effectively deal with my dad's death. He died in my arms when I was nineteen, he was forty-three.I was in denial because we believed in reincarnation so I didn't see it as any type of ending. When I realized he was DEAD, I got angry at God, at him, at any authority figure and it made me challenge everything I had believed in and challenge whatever I thought was wrong in any organization.Had I been taught from Stephen's book to have a different attitude I would have grieved very differently and not as long.I also would not have been so angry for such a long time.
Stephen's search for meaning in death led him to volunteer to help the sick and dying. He later worked in hospices and now is a cremationist. He came up with some basic rules of dealing with people who are dying their death, and those left behind.In his words from his book.,
Awareness is all about being attentive and alert, paying full attention to each other. Listen to what the other is saying and also "listen" with your eyes and your intuition. Be present and listen without judgment or criticism.
Respect is a matter of of noticing that the one you are speaking with is unique, with her own universe of understanding, opinion, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. She is not you and does not experience the world the way you do. Respecting her uniqueness goes a long way increasing a healthy environment for deeper communication.
Constantly choosing to communicate is powerful.Making a conscious choice to communicate with her sets a strong intention and enables real conversations.
Openness is bringing a fresh and curious mind to the exchange, being willing to see her and what you share as new and interesting. The attitude of openness is felt and creates space for her to be herself. the state of being closed, shuts down the free flow of conversation and she is less willing to speak the truth. (These are useful to use in ANY relationship!)
The above is a taste of what you'll find in his book and in our radio interview. We discussed the differences in grieving, the problems of denial, anger, things to do to prepare the dying person and to prepare your family for his death. How our educational system (and family) needs to rethink death and dying. Finally, what about unrealistic fears about the pain of death and what about physician assisted death for those who are emotionally ready?
Stephen's book is a vast reservoir of resources to help you cope with every stage of dying and death so that your fears of death will be changed and you will be able to deal with it with a new perspective.