By Tania Haberkorn | Translation: Cristiane Magalhaes
Everyone knows that death is a part of life. The only thing that is sure in this life is that sooner or later we will all part. But who wants to remember this fact? Death in the western world is seen as something tragic and unfixable. A less spiritual society has more difficulty in understanding something that is logic and rational.
Death is always accompanied by spiritual questioning. Where are we going? Do we completely disappear or we stay wandering like lost souls? What do we do with the body without a soul? How was your relationship with the person who parted? The immigrant has to deal with other kinds of questioning when dealing with a lost loved one in their native country. How to know when is the right moment to say good-bye? Should you go to the funeral? How long are you staying? How to explain to others here what that person meant to you and how was your relationship with that person that parted, needs to be explained.
I remembered when my grandmother died seven years ago in Brazil, I opted not to go to the funeral for professional reasons. It was a difficult choice that left me with scars. By making this choice I mourned alone.
Death is complicated for those who stay not for those who part. Those who stay, stay with memories, you will miss them, you feel the loss, the pain stays. I have learned that when you are surrounded with people that are not going through what you are going through (the loss) you feel more alone. That is why rituals are important. I don’t know if in Judaism, in Christianity, has in mind the same objective. In the Catholic religion you have the seventh day mass.
In Judaism you have the “Shivah”. The mass is an opportunity for people to reunite and pray for the dead. In the “Shivah”, the family receives the visit of friends every afternoon for one week, you will eat, pray, and remember the one who parted. In my opinion rituals are more than beautiful, they are helpful in elaborating the mourning process. Not participating in a funeral you will lose the opportunity to share your feelings of loss with people who are going through the same situation as you are, unless if you have a good part of your family here living with you and a community of friends who supports you, it will be easier than being alone. Funerals can be very hard, but sometimes it is a part of an important process of mourning that can facilitate your adaptation for later.
I don’t want to put this option as an absolute one and the only way to elaborate the loss. Each case is an individual one, each one knows its own needs. But my experience as a therapist who works with groups of children and adults who are mourning, rituals are important and helps us find our own spirituality. Ram Dass, a wise american guru talks in his book, “Still Here”, that when his mentor and guru Mahariji died, he thought he was going to be sad for a long period of time.
But his reaction was much better than he imagined. He discovered that he established a relationship with Mahariji far beyond life itself. In truth, death gave other meanings for friendship and devotion, it did not need to be tied to one form of existence. According to a literature in mourning there are five stages that the majority of people go through:
*Denial: the person tends to be in denial after receiving news of sickness or death. *Anger: after denial, comes the anger, lost of control in dealing with death in front of you. The anger is aimed towards family members, friends, and many times against the person who died.
*Lamenting: when people try to rationalize death and avoid changes. If I would have done this like…, Talked to so and so…, looking for opinion.
*Depression: normal sadness due to the loss of the loved one. It’s important to express your necessities. Some might need time to stay on their own, others want more time to stay with their nearest loved ones. It depends on each owns’ personality.
*Acceptance: not everybody gets here on this stage. But those who do are able to feel the peace within and accepts death as a natural part of life.
It is important to remember that each person will experience these stages according to what kind of relationship you had with the deceased. Not necessarily do these stages go in order, but in one way or another the process seems to give meaning for the majority of people who are mourning. In cases of loss or difficulty in understanding and acceptance, go to a support group or seek professional help. It can make a world of difference.
* Tania Haberkorn is a writer and psychotherapist. She has lived in Los Angeles, California for several years, and currently resides in Brazil where she continues to pursue her profession.