I am departing from my usual post themes because in my household we are sad about death tonight. A classmate of my daughter lost his life in an accident. As a school psychologist, I’ve been around the death of school children dozens of times, too many times. I am, and have been, sad about them all.
Please note that my phrasing sad about death, is quite intentional and one of the main points of this piece. Most of us might say death makes us sad, but in truth, the feelings don’t work this way. Nothing makes us feel or think any certain way. Even death and its finality doesn’t have that power.
What’s my point? It’s certainly not to cheapen life or downplay death.
I have no real words of encouragement. I only want to point in a direction of understanding. Our reactions to death vary because our thoughts about death and life vary as time goes on. Our thoughts and feelings vary even from moment to moment. One moment we are crying thinking about loss, the next we are laughing at a glorious moment we shared with our deceased loved one. You see, death doesn’t make us sad. We are sad about it, and that changes over time even if the sadness keeps coming back when the loss is in our thoughts.
I hope we can be understanding of others. In those deaths I’ve experienced in the schools, I often see finger pointing and blame. Children accuse others of crying too much or crying too little because of perceived relationships and closeness. So and so wasn’t as close as I was, so they shouldn’t be crying as much. We all deal with death differently based on our thoughts about it, and it’s alright that we don’t all feel the same at the same time.
It seems like death makes us sad because we almost all view the loss of life as a sad event, and this is especially true when a child dies. But when we remember that death doesn’t make us sad, we are sad about it, I think this nearly universal reaction is especially informative.
We are sad about death because of the way we think about death. We are sad about death because of our thoughts about loss: What we lost, what family and friends lost, what the deceased lost, what the world lost. We are sad about death because we know some people never get over a loved ones death. We are sad about death because we believe a light that burned so brightly isn’t visible anymore. We are sad about death because we remember loved ones we’ve lost.
Mostly, we are sad about death because we love life, and the loss of it can seem unbearable at times. So if you have the chance today, I hope you celebrate life, even the life of someone who has passed away. After all, we feel our thoughts, and in our thoughts, the life of everyone we remember lasts as long as we live.