No one likes to consider death, much less read about it, something I thought about as I wrote this post–I don’t want you to instantly click “close!” But I learned something recently about staring death in the eye, something that might help you:
There aren’t many things scarier, for most of us. And if you’re like me, the idea of death has held terror.
But unless it’s quick and unexpected, there comes a time when we are forced to confront death, to take its measure, to stare it down.
Maybe it’s my age, but during my recent health scare, I decided to consider death. After all, I work in grief. I’ve walked alongside a few loved ones on their last journey, watched at least one take her last breath and death now has shape and form. I’ve seen it close up.
In the past, the thought of that final walk of my own would fill me with anxiety. But this time, it was different.
Before me in the OR was the unknown, and some risk. There’s risk any time you go under anesthesia. Surgery can go wrong. They can find something fatal. Anything can happen. And so I thought about what might lie on the other side.
My spiritual evolution hasn’t been a secret–I’ve written about it and talked about it. But how would it be when the rubber met the road? When I was facing that great unknown?
I’ve done more spiritual connecting over the past decade than I’ve ever done and it’s done nothing but reassure me that we do not die. That spark of us that is our soul goes on, just in a different form.
Family and friends on the other side have communicated with me and that’s not only been comforting, it’s allowed my fear to abate.
I spent the entire month before surgery doing healing meditations, rituals and self-hypnotherapy meant to release anxiety and promote healing. And my anxiety floated off. Now, I don’t want to make too little of this–I can be a world-class neurotic and when a good friend came into the room as they were prepping me for surgery and said “I can’t believe how calm you are” he knew what he was talking about. It was very different than similar situations in the past. I had no anxiety. At all.
And then, after all the woo-woo, using reason, I decided that I had nothing to lose, actually–that the great transition was just that: a transition. There was no need for me to have an automatic fear now that I’d thought it through and stared death right in the eye.
I felt a little frisson of not exactly excitement, but curiosity. And absolutely no fear.
If you’ve got anxiety over a health condition, a procedure or treatment, or even mortality, I would love to help you. Using a combination of ritual, guided imagery, journaling, I can help you release your nervousness and feel more comfortable with yourself and the human condition of mortality. Whether you’re local or in another city or even country, we’ll customize an approach that takes you and your emotions into account.
If you’d like to talk about how that might work, use the purple “schedule appointment” button on the hypnotherapy page here and set up a time for a call. Let me help you do what I did so effectively for myself.
Someone asked a question about grief and loss at a recent Krishna Das workshop, and this was his response.
So many of us say these words. But do we really believe it at a gut level?
Do we “get” that we are eternal souls that do not die? And that our grief is actually for the shell that encases the soul, and that the soul does go on?
How many of us have had experiences with those who have left their bodies? Signs and communications?
And yet, most of us must still be reminded that nobody dies. Not really.
Today would be a good day to really take that in. Meditate on it. Feel it.
And believe it. Because we don’t die.
Or rather, we should make it a point to die the way we live.
No one likes to talk about death. I know I don’t.
No one plans to die. We all know it will happen. We hope it’s later rather than sooner. But no matter when it is, a good death is as important as a good life.
If we live a fearful life, we’ll die in fear. But we don’t have to.
All of the things that were important to us in life: loved ones, music, flowers, conversation, good food–most of those things can be part of a good death, too.
I always wondered why we fear death so much–why we don’t celebrate it. Because death is not the end-it’s just a transition. And most people believe that–even if the exact “place” they believe we go differs.
The other day I was thinking about someone I knew who took her life last fall and how she must be lighting up the afterlife with her smile. And then I took inventory of the people I know on the other side: My favorite aunt and uncle. My parents and grandparents. My dogs and cats. And a favorite professor, not to mention my favorite high school teacher. Yes, the afterlife must be a pretty lively place these days!
Like so many others, the idea of death does freak me out. It’s an unknown, after all. But I’m going to try my best look at it the way Dr. Wayne Dyer did: as the next great adventure in life.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to live with joy.
You probably know plenty of people facing big challenge, trials and tribulations.
In fact, the world is full of them. Where I live, fire has taken so much from people. And I know many others with health challenges. Financial challenges. Grief. Heartache.
Life can be difficult.
Sometimes, the easy default is to wallow in it. God knows I’ve done my own share of wallowing in my life. Of seeing through the eyes of fear. Of having a siege mentality.
It’s easy to get carried away by fear:
There’s fear of the unknown. Fear of being penniless in old age. Fear of death.
We don’t want to hear that any of this is meant to be a lesson of some sort. For someone. If not us, someone else.
But if we’ve done all we can do, there’s nothing else to do but have faith that what’s happening is supposed to happen.
What can we do?
Here’s the truth: we all die one day.
We can’t do a damn thing about it.
Death has been a big fear for me and without any real reason to think I would die young.
Fear is more “real” for some of my friends with health challenges. Their anxiety has a real reason.
But step back a minute: what do worry and fear accomplish? They simply rob us of the ability to live each day fully.
How do we keep that from happening? Not everyone has faith, but if you do, this would be the time to access it.
Because nothing that happens to us us wasted.
Everything that happens to us is used to teach a lesson. We don’t get a say in that.
A friend told me that she was having a hard time receiving from people wanting to help victims of the fire. It’s easy to give and sometimes not so easy to receive. Seemed clear to me that her situation might have been meant to teach her the beautiful lesson of receiving.
“I just can’t figure out what this disease is supposed to teach me,” another friend said, plaintively. She was convinced that she’d gotten cancer because of stuffing her emotions. But of course, she couldn’t do anything about that now.
Her illness didn’t seem like a lesson for her now, I thought. It was more a lesson for those around her. Maybe the Divine hadn’t sent it but it was surely using it.
She used her strong faith to manage her fear every single day, refusing to let it consume her.
When she left this world it was unexpected, and it was quickly and easily. Thankfully.
Here’s my point:
The only person who can keep you from living fully every day is you –and the anxiety and worry you might feel about your circumstances.
Maybe you don’t have faith. Maybe you don’t believe that the Divine is working in your interests. That’s ok.
Because the secular side of that is that you can choose how you respond to your circumstances. You can respond with fear and anxiety, or you can refuse to let those take root.
No matter what’s going on, the only person who can ever stop us from living fully is OURSELVES.
Most anxiety is a knee-jerk reaction to something we fear
and often fails to withstand any kind of critical analysis. I know this because I’ve just lived it.
Some random spotting caused me to see my GYN, who did an in-office ultrasound and, to my surprise, saw something “suspicious”. Until now, I’d felt safe, because there is almost no cancer in my family. But this made me quite anxious. After all, many of my friends have gone through cancer treatment or even died from it. White Coat Hypertension –or “high blood pressure at the doctor’s office” is the least of my anxiety problems when it comes to a cancer scare.
I approached the “official” ultrasound she ordered with ENORMOUS anxiety. Of course, I imagined the worst as I heard the tech clicking to take photographs of everything she saw. And the whole thing took forever.
Would they find the worst?
It showed an unusual thickening of the endometrium that could be “the bad thing” so my GYN wanted an in-office biopsy.
At that point you’d think my anxiety would be off the charts. Instead, it went completely away. Why was that?
When I meditated on my nervousness I realized that my anxiety would have no impact on the outcome. I either had cancer or I didn’t. Worrying wasn’t going to help or even change things.
Practicing what I preach
Before this, those had just been words. But now, in my meditation, I took them in. I wasn’t going to die tomorrow. And wouldn’t I be a complete hypocrite to fear death when I believe that we do not die, but simply transition to a different plane?
I know. Heavy thoughts. But they were super calming, simply because, with a little effort, I brought my thoughts in line with my beliefs.
I also enlisted the group of earthly angels I know—friends who sent out love and light, my two Reiki masters, my shaman friend and just about everyone in my luckily large spiritual support group. I felt completely loved and supported in moving forward.
Click photo to see my healing crystal candles.
Yes, the crystal thing
Selecting the best healing crystals from my collection, I carried them with me to all appointments. I had been doing healing meditations for days. I used my healing affirmations. I wore all my healing jewelry. I BELIEVE all this stuff helps and so, of course, it did.
Plus I thought about the many people I know who are living with cancer that is being controlled by treatment.
Here’s the best part: my blood pressure, normally sky-high in situations like this, was normal. NORMAL. So if that’s all this stuff did for me? It’s a big thing!
As it turned out, my GYN couldn’t complete the in-house biopsy.
How I managed pain
Her attempts were not pain-free. Any woman who has had a uterine biopsy knows what I mean.
But just that morning a good friend had revealed that in the numerous serious pain situations she’d experienced recently, she’d consistently used my pain relief recording. Like my husband related in HIS story, she was offered pain meds like crazy but she kept responding “I have no pain!” Because she was using the audio and used her mind to let the pain go. “It works!” she told me. “It really works.”
So I did that, too. After all, why wouldn’t I practice what I preach? I put in my earbuds and let my GYN do her thing—it worked: my pain was minimal. Here’s where to find the audio and more info.
Still, she couldn’t complete the biopsy.
“I suspect it’s a benign polyp,” she said, “but we need to do an in-hospital biopsy it to be sure.”
Don’t you love it when they give you “your options?”
Blood pressure still normal, I listened to my options. There were two: I could be admitted to the hospital for a D&C and biopsy under anesthesia, a same-day-home procedure. Then I would probably have a hysterectomy at a later date: my choice. I want everything that could be a future problem GONE.
OR we could move right to a hysterectomy with a GYN-oncology surgeon assisting my doc. They’d take it out, do a frozen section and if it was benign they’d proceed one way and if it wasn’t, another way. With the surgical oncologist right there.
I didn’t see any reason to go under twice. I’d already mentioned I wanted a complete hysterectomy, simply because too many of my friends have had a GYN cancer. I wanted it all gone. One less worry.
Surgery in my future
So when I return from my trip to Egypt in early April I’ll have a hysterectomy. I expect to be pain-free and anxiety-free. And here’s how I’ll make sure of it:
I will listen to healing meditations. I will ask my Reiki masters to support me. I will ask my shaman friend to do his thing. I will make sure my support circle knows time and date and I know I won’t even have to ask them to send positive vibes. I will use my crystals and healing crystal candles. I will use my own affirmations. I will use my own surgery prep, recovery, pain management and anxiety management audios.
And mostly I will trust that the Universe has my back, just like I blogged the other day. The Universe has my back and your back—all we have to do is trust.
If you’re facing a scare of your own, I’m here for you. Many of you already know that, but for those who don’t, trust that I am. Just shoot me an email at ccassara (at)gmail.com and we’ll talk.
And here are some helpful links:
Find my healing affirmations here.
Find audios for surgery prep, recovery, to relieve pain and anxiety here.
Find my healing crystal candles here.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up having simply visited the world.
That’s the poet Mary Oliver, who died this month at the age of 83. No one could ever accuse her of having simply visited the world–she left an indelible mark, along with big shoes to fill.
But what a wonderful way to remind ourselves to life our lives full bore, balls out, all the way–however you define that.
What does “live fully” mean? It means doing everything you’ve always wanted to do, if it is at all possible.
Think you’re too old to have a child at 45? Maybe not. How badly do you want one? How can you make that happen?
Think you’re too busy to take that yoga class you’ve always wanted to? You aren’t. You just need to shift priorities. Think you aren’t fit enough to contort? Find a yoga teacher who has a gentle, beginner’s approach, like I did.
Afraid you might look awkward if you took skiing lessons? Don’t worry: you will. We ALL do! That’s why they call them lessons. If you want to do it, you can.
Don’t be quick to write off those bucket list items by thinking of all the reasons you can’t. Start thinking about how you CAN.
Take the risk! Do what you dreamed of doing. Step out there in full confidence that life is meant to be fully lived.
What mark will you leave on the world? What will your legacy be?