When thinking about death, many of us feel fear, anxiety, and anger. But maybe it is worth making friends with her and turning into an ally? Will it help you feel less afraid and enjoy life more? Physician Chris Gilbert suggested several ways to accept our mortality and see life differently.
Dialogue with death
There is a technique in Gestalt therapy to help you see death as a friend. To do this, you need to enter into a dialogue with her and hear what she has to say.
“Fearing for my life and for the life of an elderly mother, I tried this technique on myself,” says Chris Gilbert. – It is a dialogue with death. I took two chairs, on one I put a light purple pillow, and on the other a dark gray. Purple is my favorite color, and mourning dark gray has become the color of death. “
Sitting in a light purple chair, Gilbert placed a dark gray chair opposite. “I’m afraid of you,” she said to the dark gray pillow. – You are dark, and you are a mystery to me. You took from me a lot of the people I loved, and for that I hate you. I don’t know when you’ll come and pick me up, or when you’ll come and find the people I love. My mom is 96 years old and I know that you will take her away in the next 10 years and I hate you for it. I want you not to be. “
Talking about death and trying to make friends with it changed a person’s outlook on life, gave inner peace and made it possible to appreciate loved ones more
Then Gilbert sat down on a dark gray pillow to answer herself on behalf of the imaginary interlocutor. She expected to freak out as the “voice of death,” but that didn’t happen. On the contrary, she noticed that her voice changed and became surprisingly calm.
“Sorry, but you can’t pretend I’m not there. Sooner or later I will come for everyone, it has always been and will be so until the end of time. But I’m not your enemy. Dying is part of being human. I’m sorry to have to take your mom, but let’s look at it differently. Death is a reason to enjoy spending time with your mother. In the future I will take you too, but now you are alive and well. Remember that life is short and appreciate it. Enjoy it! “
Gilbert sat down on a purple pillow to consider what she had heard. She was really alive and well, and so was her mother. And this is a great occasion to celebrate, Gilbert thought and decided to go on vacation with her mother as soon as possible.
Working with patients who experienced fear, anxiety and depression at the thought of death, Chris Gilbert saw that talking about death and trying to make friends with it changed a person’s outlook on life, gave inner peace and allowed them to appreciate loved ones more.
Gestalt technique of two chairs
The founder of gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, used a similar technique of interaction between the self and everything around. It helps to develop awareness of the here and now in sensations, perceptions and emotions.
One of the ways is to use pillows and chairs as “representatives” of some part of us, emotion, fear. Dr. Leslie Greenburg of York University has shown that when a client needs help to identify and deal with emotional problems, the two-chair method is often more effective than other therapies.
It helps to identify basic emotions, such as fear of death, allows you to explore them and change your point of view, make friends with her. Chris Gilbert cites research evidence that demonstrates the benefits of this approach.
Faith, knowledge or age?
Sandra Krause and her colleagues at the University of Toronto in Canada found that people who were always afraid of death, in the last stages of cancer, were more difficult to cope with depression and anxiety and were less prepared for dying than those who did not feel fear of it.
What about religion and belief? Do they help reduce the fear of death?
Paul Wink and his colleagues proved in 2005 that there is no direct connection between religious beliefs and the fear of death and dying. Wink found that the least afraid of death were the older people who had survived illness and loss and were currently happy with their lives.
Friendship with death will help us to come from powerlessness to strength, from sadness – to happiness
Three components — old age, a history of bereavement and illness, and life satisfaction — helped people get used to the process of dying.
Published in The Journal of Death and Dying in 2015, a study by Irene Searles McClutchy and her colleagues at the University of Georgia found 86 social service students had less fear of death after taking a course on it. It seems that the more a person knows about death, the less his fear of it.
Buddhist practices, for example, include meditations in which a person mentally goes through the stages of dying, lives through each one, gains knowledge about it, prepares for the inevitable ending in order to meet it in peace.
But the Mexicans have advanced farthest in dealing with death. Not only are they not afraid of her – they are celebrating her.
Day of the Dead in Mexico
Annually on October 31, on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1, All Saints Day and the 2nd – All Souls Day, Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead, or Diaz de Los Muertos. They remember and pray for their dead friends and family members as they aid their spiritual journey.
This Latin American custom combines local Aztec rituals with Catholicism. People dance and sing for the dead, go to the cemetery to decorate the graves. By reuniting in this way with the souls of the dead, they celebrate friendship, love, family and life itself.
Many Mexicans regard death as a natural phase, an extension of childhood and adulthood. On Day of the Dead, cheerful skeletons and smiling skulls can be seen everywhere. What can this holiday teach us? Chris Gilbert believes that when we become friends with death, we begin to see the world of the living differently. As a friend, she gives us three important tips:
Enjoy life more fully. Seeing in death an ally, and not a mysterious and terrible enemy, we can truly enjoy life, Chris Gilbert is convinced. Friendship with her will help us to come from powerlessness to strength, from sadness – to happiness.
Death teaches us to value every day of our being, enjoy small things, take long walks admiring nature, listen to our favorite music, inhale aromas, taste delicious dishes and rediscover the magic of touch. “Death is a condition that enables us to live an authentic life,” wrote the existential psychotherapist and writer Irwin Yalom.
Give joy to others. By rediscovering the happiness and beauty of the world, we will also inspire our loved ones. We will share with them new feelings, help them to feel the pleasure that we ourselves feel. We will tell you how much we love and cherish them, and they will be able to express what they feel for us.
Less fear of death. Having ceased to see her as an enemy, we cease to be afraid of her. Having freed herself from fear, Chris Gilbert decided to take a vacation with her mother and just be glad that they are still together.
“I’ll tell my mother how much I love her. I will bake for her, go with her to her favorite restaurants, look at old photos together and listen to her stories about the past. Life is short. We don’t know when death will take her away. We have no control over dying. But it is in our power to appreciate life, enjoy every minute. “
Exploring the issues of life and death in one of the books, Irwin Yalom wrote: “Death reminds us that existence cannot be postponed and that there is still time for life. Death is an integral part of it, and, constantly taking it into account, we enrich life, and by no means rob it. Physically death destroys a person, but the idea of death saves him. “
About the expert: Chris Gilbert is an American physician, specialist in homeopathy, acupuncture, a supporter of a holistic approach to the treatment of diseases, author of books and articles on health.