Marilyn Nyborg and Sushila Mertens: Loss and death in the time of the coronavirus
Marilyn Nyborg and Sushila Mertens
We have been thinking about the subjects not being talked about or reported in the media. Deaths are reported hourly, but who is talking about how we can deal with death or more deeply, our fear of death?
Our fears about death are often rooted in our fear of loss — loss of loved ones, loss of our identity, loss of money, loss of time to complete the things we wanted to do or say the words that needed to be said. Perhaps we share a universal fear of not being finished with what we came to do?
Hopefully we can plant some seeds to think about, to talk about loss and death.
A friend shared an article that began with: “We are not all in the same boat, we are in the same storm…” In other words, everyone will deal with the storm from a different boat or perspective based on their circumstances and tools for navigating through the storm. Getting comfortable with the subject of death is a tool that will help you live a more fulfilling life. Letting go of fear of death can change how we choose to live and how we choose our words.
Today is a gift of time for the things we keep putting off. Perhaps you have been avoiding thinking about loss and death, or feeling sadness, grief, fear, and anger. We’re all feeling all of it; the 24-hour bad news cycle isn’t helping.
Have you come to terms with your own death or the death of those close to you? It is inevitable you know. The gift of this virus is we are now face to face with that possibility. Let’s stop making death the enemy and accept it as a part of life. We can allow death to teach us how to appreciate life more fully.
Have you created or updated your “Advanced Directive” and appointed a medical power of Attorney? How about your will? This is a discussion waiting to happen. Doing so will create a conversation with yourself or your partner and family. There are many free resources to create the basics with witnesses or a notary making the documents legal. Lawyers will be needed if you have a large estate.
This pandemic has increased our losses significantly. Collectively, we have lost loved ones and friends, jobs, careers, businesses, income, housing, physical connections, sports and exercise routines, and even our entertainment and vacations. Since we are all in the same storm everything we are feeling is magnified by the collective fear and depression.
The rituals we had to support each other are temporarily canceled. No one can hold you … unless you’re lucky enough to live with another who can. People in hospitals or facilities cannot receive visitors. Even the dying may have to die alone. Funerals or memorial services may limit the number of participants. The usual methods of consolation may not be available; however, there are always creative ideas if you are willing to try them.
We are fortunate in Nevada County to have the Full Circle of Living and Dying Collective, a nonprofit that “educates and serves the living in understanding options and rights for end-of-life care and post-death care.” Their group of trained end-of-life doulas encourage conversation and help families co-create an end-of-life plan of care.
We are being challenged to sit with loss and death. We are living in completely unknown times with our usual anchors of stability gone. This is not just about us; our entire humanity is experiencing the loss and death of the familiar. Isolation is an interlude for breaking with old patterns and routines. A time-out from human pollution in thoughts and actions. The return of clear and clean air, deep breathing, and the sights and sounds of birds and animals all around the planet.
We have an opportunity to balance our losses with a new appreciation for life’s simple pleasures and every day we have left.
Marilyn Nyborg lives in Grass Valley and Sushila Mertens lives in Nevada City.
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