During the last 100 years, says Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, our culture has “pathologized” death by taking it into the hospital. We have done ourselves a real disservice by separating, or “compartmentalizing” death – and endings – away from life; and this has been taking its toll on our society. There is a tremendous focus on and bias toward youth and beauty, not to mention image; and we have become dishonoring of the aging process and the grief process, too, for that matter.
Furthermore, due to the consciousness shift taking place on the planet, the issues of death, change, endings, and transitions have become even more pronounced. In a sense, at this time we are each going through our own transformative letting go process of one kind or another.
I sometimes say that it’s as if the entire world is on Hospice. And we have so much to learn from those who are going through severe change – like those who are dying, and those who work with the dying. If we can maneuver deep change by letting go of what no longer serves us, I believe this is the key!
Therefore, I would encourage you find new ways to bridge the gap between life and death.
Here are some suggestions I have to get started:
Since everything starts on the energetic level, you might start by visualizing and praying: Invite death, endings, and grief to become a more natural and friendly part of your life. You might even extend this intention out into your family, community, and the American society at large.
Find places and people in your life where and with whom you can speak more openly about these matters. Since aspects of the entire world is “on hospice” these days and many people are going through all sorts of transitions, it need not be so difficult to find ways to talk creatively about endings, letting go – of old ways, beliefs, and the “stuff” that no longer serves us. Sharing and expressing the grief that resides in our being these days is so important, too. I’ll be writing more about the Death Cafe worldwide movement (see www.deathcafe.com) also – a very significant emerging movement for our times.
For some time now hospices, palliative care programs, and midwives all have been helping to create new avenues to integrate life and death back together again. If there is any way you could support these programs or people, I strongly encourage you to do so.
You might consider becoming a volunteer at your local hospice. Hospices are always looking for new volunteers; and I can guarantee that however long your commitment, you will learn so much about yourself and be transformed by such an experience that you will never regret it. It’s a wonderful investment in yourself and your future. See my most recent book, The Most Important Day of Your Life: Are You Ready? to read more about the gifts that I have received through the last 20 years of hospice ministry.
Finally, I invite you to reach out in new and courageous ways to someone in your life who’s going through a transition of some kind. You could begin by praying for them or asking them how you could support them. Consider this a learning opportunity for yourself and see how you might grow from a situation you normally would avoid or choose not get involved in. See yourself being transformed by a new experience!
These are just a few pointers for you to begin thinking in ways that could help you begin a process of transformation with courage at this time. Clearly, change is needed and stands knocking at our doorstep. I encourage us all to open the door and welcome it in!
Also, please let me know other ideas you might have along these lines, to help bring death, and endings, back into our lives – where they belong.
The Rev. Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund is a United Church of Christ minister, author and longtime hospice and bereavement counselor who has published The Last Adventure of Life: Sacred Resources for Transition and The Most Important Day of Your Life: Are You Ready? She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She continues to write and is getting ready to publish her third book in 2016. She is always looking for opportunities and places to speak and teach.