Death in Paradise

A beach somewhere in Paradise.  Peace, tranquilty and beauty impart a sense of oneness with the universe, a feeling of relaxation  and refreshment.  Deserted and blissful.  Life lived to the full by all the creatures that inhabit it and something experienced by some of us only on our annual holiday.  We proclaim that this is the life, no stress, no pain and no ugly.  Or so we think.  Then out of nowhere, loss and sadness.  The bereftness of a mothers grief. 

Her dead baby near.  She seems unable to leave.  Rocking herself in grief and despair.  What is it about death that it invades our very best moments? We wish to push it away, pretend it doesn’t exist.  We frenetically race around our lives so that we may not have to confront our morbidity or mortality and the loss of the life we wished for ourselves.  But, as Clarissa Pinkola Estes so eloquently describes in her analysis of Skeleton Woman.  Real life and real love require that we face and acknowledge the “not lovely”.  Real living is a cycle of the life-death-life and that if we try to live without acknowledging death then we have deadened ourselves already. In some way, this mother Elephant Seal knows that death needs to be acknowledged.

And, what of the humans in this picture, how did they respond to her pain and despair.  I, for one, am able to explain her grief in complex physiological terms.  But, while I understand the physiology, it does not detract from the fact that this mother needed to complete a process of mourning.  A process of release.  This process, as  my friend commented,  takes as long as it takes.  The two young boys walking to see what was going on understood this immediately.  They accepted that she needed to “cry” and they gave her the space to do so.  Most of the humans that came to see her wanted to assure themselves that she was ok.  Some, primarily the men, would have liked to just take the dead baby away, and get her back off into the sea and returned to her tribe.  But, paradoxically, the mother Seal, knew intuitively that she needed to spend time on the beach. 

So the real question is what can we learn from the process of loss and grief, that our wild companions in this world undergo.  I think that there are 3 lessons here. 

The first and primary lesson is that we need to “sit with the dead child”,  whether this be a real loss of a family member, the loss of love or the loss of a dream. Not pretend that everything is fine, pretend that we are alright.  Not pretend that our emotions have not been affected, and I would add, not pretend that our physiology has not been disrupted.  Once we have been alone in our grief and given the mourning the active time it requires we will be able to slowly return to our tribe and our journey.  

The second lesson is that we need at some point to let it go.  Not hang on or wallow in the deadness.  Accept our role in destruction and then move on.  This is, of course, easier said than done and some think it means putting it behind you but in fact it means integrating the lessons into the tapestry of your life.

And finally, embrace life again.  Once again, available to taste and savour our lives with the open arms that a passionate journey requires. 

If we do not do these three steps then we run the risk of gettng “turned down at the edges”.  You know what I mean, the people that you have met who are bitter and turned against humanity because of their own pain.  Signalling their displeasure in their demeanour, forever trying to pretend that they feel no pain or loss. 

I wish for everyone who reads this post, the courage to face their losses, the courage to intergrate them into the tapestry of their life and then the courage to embrace their new dreams and destiny.

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~ by Dee Muller on December 18, 2009.

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