The following is a presentation of an article which originally appeared on 30 October 2018.
As the bright, beautiful colours of summer have given way to the spectacular oranges, reds, and yellows of fall, harvest time is upon us and so is the season of gratitude – to be grateful for the bountiful harvest that we and our gardens worked so hard to grow, so that we could nourish our bellies, hearts, and souls.
Nourishing our soul is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves.
Connecting with Mother Nature is one thing that I do to feed my soul. Whether it be walking or hiking in the woods, or meditating by the ocean, nature is my fix. Not too far from where I live, there is a beautiful retreat surrounded by forests called La Solitude. The purpose of this retreat is to spend time unwinding, contemplating or meditating; giving one's self a break and spending some time alone to just BE. I recently had a chance to visit this retreat, as my friend was hosting a workshop on gratitude.
In between the teachings of the workshop, we had ample time to spend in solitude and silence - to take time to reflect and be thankful for all the beauty that surrounds us. I took a walk through the woods and could hear the chirps of the "hardy" birds that don't go south for the winter, along with the sounds of the light rain that's falling, as it hits the colourful leaves that remain on the trees - for me, this time is peaceful and serene.
Pondering what "letting go" would look like...
As I walk through the woods, I reflect on the teachings of the workshop. Our guide suggested that we do a "letting go" ritual to end the day, so I was pondering about what my "letting go" would look like. The timing of this workshop couldn't be better, as I knew that I indeed had some things of which I needed to let go. As a death doula, when meeting a new family that has a loved one who's started their death journey, I need to let go of my "stuff" so that I can be 100% present with them. The next day, I was going to be meeting a family whose loved one's journey had begun. They invited me to their home to discuss my accompanying and guiding them through this sacred process. I had to let go of any preconceived notions that I had about dying and death and leave my heart and mind open to what their desires were.
The path in the woods led me to some stairs that, in turn, led to the beach of our “chocolate” river.
The path in the woods led me to some stairs that, in turn, led to the beach of our "chocolate" river. Even though it was cold, rainy and windy, I couldn't stop myself from descending the stairs so I could marvel at what mother nature had to offer down there. Of course, this time of year, there's no one there, so I had the place to myself. I walked the beach for a while, seeking little beach treasures that I could take home with me. I found a comfy rock (as comfy as rocks can be) and decided to sit, meditate and ground myself in preparation for the next day.
The next day, as I sat listening and being present with the family, I couldn't help but notice the love this family had for each other as they were talking about their wishes. Witnessing that love taught me to love completely and fiercely because we never know when our death journey will begin.
Through very frank and honest dialogue, I could see that they had already begun the letting go process. The dying family member had already let go of any expectation that they were going to continue in this journey called life, and was facing the fact that they were dying. The living family members had also begun the process of letting go - I could tell by their talking about what their life was going to look like, and plans they have, after the death of their loved one.
How does one get through letting go of everything that made up their routine for so long, all at once?
For some people, letting go of pets can be just as difficult as letting go of a human family member. Our pets are our trusted companions and are always there when we need them, unconditionally. We build our lives around them, and hopefully, we have many years with them before we have to let them go. I know of someone who's dog died, and their spouse was so heartbroken over the death of their faithful companion, they had a heart attack the next day and died a week later. How does one get through letting go of everything that made up their routine for so long, all at once? It seems impossible, but most of us would are resilient and would be able to get through it.
When someone is dying, whether it be a human family member or a pet, there are all kinds of things of which we need to let go. When we first find out that someone is dying, we think about how can we possibly carry on without them? In my opinion, that's the first step of letting go, imagining our world without them. Once we realize that there's no hope that things will change and that someone is indeed dying, we need to prepare ourselves to let go of them physically. Once they have died and we've let go of them in our physical world, other things need to be let go. The routine that we once had with them, and even letting go of that person's material things can be a challenge.
With time, letting go of our loved ones will lead to new routines, but we will always have our memories, and for some of us, we will even feel that our loved one is here with us, spiritually.
We will never entirely let go of the essence of the being that is no longer with us physically. But knowing that they are still with us in our hearts, I believe, will get us through this journey called life and make letting go just a little bit easier next time - because there will be a next time,
it's the cycle of life.
Jules lives in New Brunswick where she seeks to bring comfort to individuals facing the loss of a loved one. If you would like more information on the services that Jules provides as a Death Doula and Educator, please visit her website at www.amindfuldeath.ca.