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Dealing with Death

October 15, 2014

Death -- Tarot of the MastersDespite the common view of the Death card that is held by the general populous, it does not mean that someone is about to die. (There are, however, pros and cons about interpreting it this way. See a blog post I wrote a few years ago that includes a poll about this topic, which you can still participate in.) Nevertheless, it may be about death in one way or another. For example, I once did a reading for a recent widow in which the Death card came up and initiated a discussion of how she needed to deal with the loss of her husband. And so a physical death can be an important aspect of this card in that sometimes it can indicate that we need to grieve and heal from the loss of someone who was important to us. That loss, however, may not be a recent one, so it can be hard to recognize this message in the course of a reading. Let me give you an example from my own life about how a decade-old loss may still require effective grieving.

When I was sixteen years old, one of my brothers was in a fatal accident. At that age, I was old enough to understand what had happened (I was not a bewildered child, after all) but not how to deal with it. And the people who otherwise would have been tasked with helping me cope with a personal tragedy (i.e., my parents) were living in their own private hell at that time and were not able to help me. In fact, their abject suffering caused me to decide that I needed to be the strong one, so I sublimated my pain and thus failed to deal with my loss adequately.

As time went on, it was like having a broken bone that had not set properly. It was no longer a visible injury, but it still exerted crippling effects on me. For example, I had recurring dreams about my brother. I would dream that he came back, that he had not died after all, and that it had all been a horrible joke or that he had had to fake his death for some reason. Of course, I would always awaken back into the cruel reality and have to suffer an echo of the pang of loss once more.

More than a decade passed in this way, and then finally I had a discussion about this with a friend who was wise enough to recognize the nature of the problem and to propose a healing solution. Simply put, he suggested that I say goodbye to my brother. I protested that he was gone, so how could I do that? My friend told me that it didn’t matter; I could imagine him there and tell him goodbye. So I tried that. I had a lengthy talk with my brother, and that led to a long-overdue grieving process, which finally brought me closure and healing.

I still have those dreams now and then, but they don’t hurt me anymore. Now I see them as evidence that my brother is still here with me—not physically, but in spirit instead. I think that’s the place that effective grieving brings us to. The ache doesn’t go away so much as it stops hurting us, and so we are finally able to leave the suffering behind and find a place of peace.

Postscript: This discussion about how to grieve and heal from a tragic loss was inspired by a wonderful article by Ram Dass, which I highly recommend to anyone dealing with the death of a loved one, whether it be recent or years past.

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3 Comments
  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience. Grief, does indeed, have its own time, and we need to give it it’s due.

    • Yes. As Ram Dass said in that article:
      “Grieving is a healthy, necessary aspect of life … [We should] be patient with the process, and not be in a hurry to put our grief behind us.”

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