Replacing Upset with Relief
Do you recall the first time you encountered death in “real life”? How old were you? What were the circumstances?
I was eight years old when my younger cousin died of a brain tumor. She was four. I remember our parents not wanting to talk about it at all. Yet, my cousin and I talked about it. She knew she was sick. She knew her eyes were peering at her nose and her head ached all the time. I remember she said she wasn’t scared and asked me to “look after” her mom and dad. As I reflect back, she was so wise, so calm, at peace. For me, knowing Angie was “ok” was all I needed to keep living with her as long as she was here. We talked, we played, we took walks, we acted “normal”. Those memories have stayed with me as I’ve kept living.
When I was growing up, we had a Death and Dying class in high school. We read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and discussed the stages of grief, leading to acceptance. It was a place where we could all express if we had encountered death and share our experiences/feelings. Kids who felt like talking could, no one was forced. We discussed that it was certain we too would leave the physical world, while our date of departure was unknown. We discussed the uncertainties and explored how we felt. We were encouraged to continue talking and exploring our feelings along with getting to know how others felt.
When did you first experience a time when someone was seriously ill or had an accident? I call these “Life events”. We see the impact at home, at school, at work. When you or someone you know is dealing with the impact of facing the unknown, we often feel unprepared or uncomfortable in our daily routine as we want things/life to be “normal” … yet they aren’t.
“Life events” and death happen every minute of every day. While it may be unsettling to discuss our mortality or changes in daily life, is it possible to begin an educational component within our society to “neutralize” talking about all of life, inclusive of illness, accidents and death? Mix it in with “life skills” education inclusive of budgeting, time management, planning and organizing.
I continually ask myself where are these conversations in our society? When did we as a society “clam up”? Is there a tie between embracing critical thinking, debate and philosophy in our educational system and our ability to openly acknowledge the “D” (disruption, disability, even death) words? Life skills are an important component to students entering into adulthood. Is it possible a link exists between individual interpretation of “life skills” and the application of personal responsibility to our daily lives with our interpretation of death?
I am a believer in talking about the “elephant” in the room. If we feel unprepared, if we fear our mortality, if we prefer to avoid a potential conflict, if we fear traumatizing others, if we deny the fact it could happen to us, if we feel we have plenty of time – these are all reasons not to talk or plan in advance for the “what if’s”.
What if we could shift these reasons to avoid to accepting the empowerment, freedom, relief, comfort and peace of mind that comes from being able to think about, discuss and plan for “life events” and even death?
Through mentoring high school seniors who embark upon their first year in college, I’ve learned from them about skills they would like to develop. Those skills center primarily on how to prepare to manage their time, money and emotions as they enter this important phase of live – the transition into adulthood. The Urban Dictionary has a word for this – “Adulting” which in essence is taking responsibility for life choices previously left to their parents.
Could it be possible to education youth to allow them to be the leaders in initiating discussions of these important topics? Could it be possible that through driving change at a younger age, we may also provide them with the skills necessary to prepare them for living life inclusive of the impact of the “what if’s” with confidence? Could it be possible to replace upset with relief?
The Living Planner was formed to provide resources to individuals and businesses to advance practical ways to organize, access and secure information, plans and decisions that impact daily lives. Educating future generations about the value of life skills is an approach for consideration. www.thelivingplanner.com #LifePlanningSimplified