Someone close to me died recently, and as you can imagine, I’m not very pleased about it. He had been fighting a variety of ailments for the last few years, but it was still sudden.
Perhaps naively, the strength that he seemed to keep gaining over the last two years made us feel that he was invincible and would continue to keep winning every fight he got in. No one expected his wife to just come home after work on a Friday afternoon and find out that the man she’d spent the majority of her life with had left his earthly confines.
And that got me thinking about something that really bugs me about people’s reactions to bad things that happen in their life. Hearing sentiments like “what happened to X really makes you think” and then watching people get all weird looking inward, contemplating their worth and mortality as a reaction to death pisses me right off.
To react to the death or serious illness of a loved one by turning inward and re-examining your life just doesn’t make sense.
And really? I think to some degree, it’s selfish and narcissistic. People die. People get sick. None of it is fair and rarely does it ever make sense.
Unfortunately, these are facts of life and if you continue to be rocked to the core by bad things happening to good people, you are making life unnecessarily hard.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel things. Feel things hard and feel things deep, because that’s what separates us from the robots. But the big thing that more of us need to get on board with is acceptance and self-reflection.
Self-reflection is one of the most important tools we have in our human tool kit. I encourage each of you to spend time everyday reflecting on how your day went, what you could have done better, and what made you feel good.
The more time we spend looking inward allows us to build our best selves and continue moving towards that seemingly unattainable goal of true happiness.
The wise know it’s not others who can make you happy. They know that happiness emanates from inside.
So then why does turning all introspective after a death really drive me crazy? Because simply put, their death is not about you. It should not serve as a catalyst for your life review.
Instead, spend the time thinking about all of the amazing things that person accomplished in his or her life. How loved did that person make you feel?
As much as my heart breaks knowing that I’ll never see that sweet man again, he brought so much joy into my heart during times when I needed joy the most that I’ll be forever grateful.
But I won’t be radically changing my life as a result of his passing. I won’t hastily make giant decisions because it’s now or never and you might never have a tomorrow.
These are great slogans and mantras to help you mourn, but when you emerge on the other side of your grief, you might end up wishing that maybe you had taken a little more time to consider the ramifications of dramatically uprooting your life.
You’ve built your life in a certain way because it’s comfortable for you. And while I 100% support anyone deciding to make big changes, doing so while grieving just isn’t the right time.
Instead of trying to give yourself a massive life makeover, allow the legacy of your loved one to live on through you.
In my case, I’m going to continue on my path of doing things I’m passionate about because it’s what he did his whole life. I’m going to listen more intently when people speak to me, because when you spoke to him, he always made you feel like you were the most important thing in the world.
Instead of focusing on your perceived flaws and thinking of what you can do to make yourself better, take the amazing things about the people you loved and emulate them.
Make the world a better place by continuing the good work these people have done. Whether it’s donating to certain causes, or just throwing change in buskers’ guitar cases.
If you really want this death to have some meaning to it, carry on their work in your life.
It’s like the yin yoga approach to life. Slow long holds that don’t require a ton of energy or work to get into, but make a huge difference in the long run.