Why it's okay to celebrate death

It's okay to celebrate death.

The initial responses I received when telling others my grandma had passed were "I am sorry for your loss" and "What a horrible thing." While inside I soaked up these words of compassion and melted in awe at the condolence letters that came pouring through, I wanted to speak out to explain that her death was not so much of a loss—but more of a beautiful and mysterious celebration. 

When I said this out loud, I will admit that I received multiple reactions. Many did not understand how death could be such a celebration; others were confused, for in their minds, death was a horrible, sad event that could never be seen as a celebration. 

There was the utmost relief after my grandma died. That is the honest truth—for my mother, myself, and mainly, for my grandmother. While many might think this is selfish, we took care of her deeply and lovingly for many weeks—so when I say we felt relief, I mean we felt it from a genuine place. We felt utterly exhausted and emotionally burnt out.

For many might have not known it, but at her death bed she begged the nurses multiple times, in broken English, for them to relieve her pain; she did not want to live anymore, and she was tired of this life.

"Please give me something that will kill me faster!" she would say, pleading into their eyes, tears streaming down her face.

Many did not know that she would wake up frequently from her drug-induced state and look over to my mother and I in disappointment, wondering why she was still alive and why the death process was taking so long. Not only this—but that she had wanted to die for many, many years before she had gotten to that point. 

The beauty of her death was not only in the event itself, but also in the process.

She had gone through phases of letting go, as many people do when they know that they are dying. Hallucinations, writing good-bye and forgive me/I forgive you letters, loss of appetite, confusion, and delirium were the most prominent stages we witnessed. She would wake up vividly hallucinating, believing that she was back in Japan. Other times she had visions of people who had passed years back. It was almost as if she was in two worlds at once: One foot lingering in the physical world, one foot in another dimension. But she was greatly comforted and laughed at these hallucinations, happy to see those loved ones again.

What fascinates me most is how the body and mind proceed through these stages as an individual dies. Research shows evidence of what is called the "death bed phenomenon"—occurring all around the world in many cultures and religions—where, before death, an individual is comforted by their deceased loved ones through hallucinations. Other experiences include packing—"needing to leave and go home" and "needing to catch the train" are common. Other instances such as reaching out to "something that is not there" or seeing things in the corner of rooms... is common. Occasionally, my grandmother would start packing her clothes and saying that the ones who passed were coming to get her or reaching out in the corner of the room and smiling.

There was suffering, but there was also great comfort in the hallucinations my grandmother experienced. She was surrounded by my mother and I as we took care of her and comforted her during her transition; when she was more lucid, she explained that these hallucinations were "fun" and at least she didn't have to be bored while waiting to die.

My grandmother's death was a celebration. We celebrated the end of her suffering and also in this life she lived.

Maybe it's not the type of celebration where you rejoice and are ecstatic—because, of course, I wasn't. There were days where tears ran down my face—tears of exhaustion, and tears of sadness for the suffering she experienced and complete burn out from everything we had gone through. For all she wanted was to be relieved of the suffering and to be with the ones who had passed before her. 

And at the end, I want to clarify that every grieving process is completely different and unique. In other situations, I have mourned and have deeply grieved in deep suffering, wishing the death of my loved ones to have been only a nightmare. In this situation, I come from another side of myself—a side that knows that if you are experiencing relief and comfort, it is normal and okay to feel this way. Death does not have to be deeply sad and horrible each time, and your experience is 100% valid and normal.

It is okay to say, "Shit, that was really tiring and I'm glad for that person and for myself that it's over." For this is what my grandma had wanted: She had wanted to die, and it is okay to be happy for someone who wants to die and finally does. 

Did You Know? You Have A Voice of Guidance Within.

When I was seventeen-years-old, I was devastated by a break-up. Perhaps the sad music coming from my pink colored iPod mini at that moment was coloring my world into a deep sadness; Damien Rice's soft voice playing "9 Crimes" as I lay in angst at the pain of attachment to teenage love.

Huddled in confusion and grief. I asked for help.

Between the space of plea and an answer, I subconsciously wrapped my arms around my shoulders to give myself a hug, a touch of support - a kind loving gesture that I was shocked to find. 

A SOFT VOICE THAT WHISPERED

"I AM HERE FOR YOU, SELF. I CARE."

This inner guidance that I received, this refuge and this deep acceptance of profound love. Myself. I had tapped into an inner source of wisdom, love and care; so profound and deeply entrenched in the center of my heart. Having expected that I needed another to mend my pain, I leaned into this comfort from myself as I softly closed my eyes and rocked myself to sleep. 

SNUGGLED IN THIS COMFORT OF MYSELF, THIS ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND PROFOUND REALIZATION THAT... I AM ANOTHER BEING, A BEING THAT I NEED, AND I AM ABLE TO SUPPORT AND BRING LOVING KINDNESS TOWARDS MYSELF

Through times of despair and discomfort when I've felt afraid, confused and panicked, I would always come back to myself and mend the pain through words of kindness and encouragement. At times of rage, I would go weeks forgetting my inner guidance. But eventually, I would come back inward to my heart, "Are you still there?" I would ask, muffled through tears and desperation. Without hesitation, through the darkness, a small light of beacon softly spoke, "I am still here".

AS HUMANS, WE OFTEN FORGET THIS INNER GUIDANCE. . 

When clouds are stormy and tornados sweep into our heart and mind, we tend to forget the sunshine behind the clouds. And if the inner guidance hasn't been activated in a long time, it can be forgotten - lost in the mud of our mind. Some days, the whispers of my loving kindness are faint, far away and difficult to find. Despite the despair, through practice and recognition, I have found, that like others, deep in our heart and mind, there is a place, waiting for us to listen and surrender to. A place that whispers, "I am here for you, self. I care".


Release your tears ... Please? It is good for you.

 

In a culture that is so deprived of feeling our emotions, melted in shame and disapproval for difficult feelings, it is no surprise that crying is occasionally also seen as weak and discouraged. And yet, as a culture, we deprive ourselves of something that is so natural, so physiologically and psychologically rewarding to our mind and body.

 

NOT ONLY DOES CRYING FEEL GOOD, BUT IT IS ALSO PHYSIOLOGICALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY GOOD FOR OUR US. 

 

When we deprive ourselves of our emotions and our tears, we are cutting ourselves off from our aliveness and humanness. We are cutting ourselves off from basic human connection-- the connection of touching the raw space within our body needed to heal and transform. By connecting to ourselves through appreciation and kindness, we are able to let emotions and tears move in an organic and raw way and in turn open our heart toward ourselves and others. 

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.

** I will add that crying numerous times a day for a long period of time is different from the once in a while cry that I talk about in this post. If you feel that you've been stuck and in a state of depression for a while, please reach out to me or to another human that can offer assistance and support. Know that you're not alone and we are here for you. **


Benefits of Crying

  1. Crying lowers stress: Tears are your bodies way to release stress. It also allows us to release anxiety, sadness, grief and frustration. Crying allows us to release emotions that have been built up, and allows our emotions to flow freely so they don't get stuck in our body.  Not only does it physically feel good to release, emotional tears also shed stress hormones and other toxins that accumulate during stress. 
  2. Tears kill bacteria, remove toxins and irritants: Apparently tears contain a antibacterial and antiviral agent called lysozome that kill 90 to 95% of bacteria in our body. Pretty amazing.
  3. Crying can elevate mood :  When we cry, we stimulate the production of endorphines, which is our "feel good" hormones. Some studies have even shown that crying is more effective than some antidepressants. Tears also contain protein-based hormones such as prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone and leucine enkephalin (natural pain killers) excreted when the body is under stress.
  4. Calms the body: amazingly, our heart rate and breathing slows down after crying and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.
  5. Contains antibodies to fight pathogenic microbes

and finally... 

Crying means that you're alive... please, never apologize for crying. If anything, it is our culture that has taught us that crying is weak and that crying means we're not powerful. It is exact opposite. To be powerful means to take care of your body, to come alive and let your body heal in ways to sustain the life you want to live. Healing yourself means you're healing the planet ... and that's just really, really awesome :  )

 

"Crying doesn't indicate that you're weak. since birth,

it's always been a sign that you are alive."

Anxious? Use a Tree To Feel Better.

Feeling off centered is a natural and physiological response of fear and anxiety. Our inherit reaction is to run, our fight or flight stress hormones are released and we can't properly think. We may feel groundless, lightheaded and forget our connection to the ground - our support center. 

When anxiety and fear hits... energy and attention rise upwards into our minds. Obsessive thoughts circle throughout, adrenaline is pumped through our whole body and we look for an immediate way to escape. If there is no way of escaping, then we start anxiously planning and obsessing - trying to control the situation through an obsessive thinking, analyzing and planning.

In yoga, the tree symbolizes our connection to earth. We focus our attention on one foot grounded in the earth as a symbol for the roots of a tree. Just like a tree, we are able to connect with our earth center as we find balance and serenity within ourselves. 

 

Ground Yourself

It is important during these times to connect back with the feet. For some, this may mean taking a walk or exercising. 

luckily, we can use a wonderful resource right outside.

Throughout these times it may be helpful to sit under a tree and feel the support of the tree grounding you, supporting you back into the earth, into the present moment.


  1. Sit by a tree or preferably on top of the roots of a tree. (make sure you are touching the tree)
  2. Look around the tree and recognize the roots connected to the earth, present, in this moment.
  3. Close your eyes (if you feel comfortable) and feel the support of the tree on your back and sit bones.
  4. Take a couple deep breaths to center yourself in this moment. Reconnecting with the breath of life.
  5. Let yourself be held and supported by this grand tree of life. This tree is here for you, holding you through the fear and anxiety.

It's important to remember that trees hold immense power of life and energy. Trees, like other forms of nature are also alive. This may help you feel that you are not alone and that a tree isn't just a lifeless object :) 


Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself, my dear, for needing to feel perfect in such an imperfect world.

Forgive yourself for those harsh words you have told yourself, adopted by the tongues of the insecure and wounded.

Forgive yourself for not realizing your sadness, loneliness, anger, and vulnerability. What else do you expect of your self? Other than being a raw and organic human being living in this human filled world.

Forgive yourself for trying to live up to expectations derived from a society focused so much on a destructive cycle of power and suffering.

Forgive yourself for needing recognition when the only recognition you need in the end is the recognition of yourself.

Forgive yourself for trying to fit into a molded box of what society accepts, only to harshly push down your own feelings, passions, and dreams.

Don't you know? Your imperfections make you so human and so beautiful.

Forgive yourself, dear. Forgive yourself.