Almost 2.5 million people have died of COVID-19. About 31 percent of deaths worldwide are due to cardiovascular diseases. The annual number of people who commit suicide is double the number of homicides.
We don’t seem to talk about death and dying — and when we do, it’s touchy. It makes one’s skin crawl and heart race.
After watching the process myself, I realize it is time to talk. The more we shy away from heavy topics, taboo conversations or difficult thoughts such as death, the more we are ill-equipped to handle what precedes it all: life.
When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer when I was ten years old, death and dying wasn’t even on my mind. All that was conjured along my train of thought was, “are you going to lose your hair?”
In no way am I saying that a 10-year-old should be sat down and given a stern talk about the intricacies of death and delve into philosophies of the afterlife, but I am advocating for the integration of these kinds of discussions into normalized society.
The three weeks prior to my mom’s death last May, the days and weeks after, even including today and my grief-filled future, all have transformed my views on death.
I am sure I’m not the only one who gets that 2 a.m.-panic-attack, even as a kid, when I realize suddenly that my biological life is finite. Regardless, my subconscious immediately averts and purges it from my mind for the sake of what seems like protection.
It’s not. I promise.
What I have learned is the virtue of embracement: we must embrace our feelings, thoughts and emotions – no matter how dark, complex or anxiety-provoking they are. Though I am no licensed psychologist, the expertise I have fabricated for myself dictates that I may create my own grief-processing philosophy.
When given the opportunity to meditate and marinate in our conscious and subconscious mind, as I have allowed myself to do more since May, one can almost create an exposure therapy simulation: a branch of therapy found very effective for a range of disorders.
This ties back to talking about death and dying because once we allow ourselves to feel fully, think openly and work differently, we create a more welcoming space for normalized conversations of the “hard stuff.”
The things, like death, that we find we just cannot bring ourselves to talk about can finally be on the table and be dealt with instead of being toxically buried deep within our consciousness.
I call on you to talk about the deep stuff. Discuss your inner demons — what makes your face turn red, or heart glow blue. Specifically, talk about death. We all think about it. We all fear it. Even if some of us are unwilling to admit it (yes, I’m talking to you).
Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic turning our lives upside down, the thought of surviving instead of living becomes closer and closer to the spotlight. We must get out of this headspace where it is okay for all to simply survive: getting the bare minimum, living day-to-day.
No! We must embrace our fears, venture past what is easy or normal and live with the end of our days in mind. It’s time to face the truth and face reality.
My mom was one of over 600,000 people who died of cancer in 2020. Regardless, she lived — not survived. She didn’t let the adversity in her life tie her down, and we can’t either.