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  • Sherise Schlaht

LIFE AFTER LOSS

#thoughtfultuesday returns with the favoured topic of death (insert sarcastic reaction here). Although you may not be experiencing or grieving the loss of a loved one in a current context, death is frequently endured on an individual level; regardless of one’s stance or level of acceptance. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that with the passing of each moment, we are all inching towards an inevitable death. As you read this, you may be judging the sadistic nature of my mind. From a therapeutic perspective, the consideration of one’s own death is encouraged and can be a useful transformational tool. For this reason, I have decided to devote another week to its antics. Figuratively, we undergo a series of micro-deaths from one moment to another; by the time we conceive the passing of time, the self that existed in that space is no longer. In slightly grander proportions, one can question whether or not we are the same person when we wake after a period of rest. Similarly, when relationships or life circumstances terminate or evolve, there is often an accompanied feeling of loss. In my own journey, I can state with a degree of certainty that I am not the same person that I once was, whether this is a comparison to one year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, or more.

As you likely have witnessed, life can present its twisted sense of humour at random and unexpected times. In fact, it appears that life favours the element of surprise. I cannot speak for all beings, but gentle waves crashing at my shins do not possess the potency that is required for an awakening. Rather, a tidal wave of grand proportions is required; I need to be completely swept off of my feet and tumultuously thrashed about in its wake. Only then do I recognize the necessity for change. In working through and healing from these near-drowning situations, a death of self is often required.

There may exist some confusion as to what a “death of self” entails. In using the word self, I am referring to the egoic conception of self. This is the mind’s construction of who we think we are. If this explanation still elicits confusion, I explore this in greater detail in the previous post (Hollow to Whole). Similar to Judith Butler’s explanation of gender performance, our sense of self is also a performance. We create labels and ideas which we identify with as ourselves and move about the world in this manner. Before I completely dismantle the construction of self and encourage self-death, it is important to note that to be human is to operate with some illusive version of self. If we are too extreme in terms of spontaneity or inconsistency, we will likely land ourselves in a psychiatric institution. Where the element of death can be particularly beneficial is in dropping aspects of our self-concept that are not serving us; especially stories that keep us stuck in victimhood.

Returning to my subjective experience following loss, it is increasingly apparent that life continues on. It is rather satirical that life does not halt for anyone or anything. Throughout the two-week period of coping and planning two services, it was as if I was encompassed in a bubble; time progressed so slowly that it was witnessed as standing still. Yet, there was an awareness that outside of this bubble, all else was proceeding at its comparatively fast pace. Such a strange paradox to be privy to. As I have narrowed my dissociative coping, I have less vices to turn to in times of intensity. Although this is generally viewed as positive, it leaves limited opportunity for escape. Despite my escape tactics presenting themselves with more subtlety, they are nonetheless present. I find myself defaulting into the state of an observer. Here, I can be amongst life without actively participating in it. There is an element of detachment, which is perceived as “safe”. In this way, I refrain from engaging in any situation that involves risk. Awareness of this pattern requires an intentional and active participation in life. What does active participation look like? Even though types of engagement may vary, the route is the same. Fundamentally, fear is allowed to exist, but is not bought-into. Hence, I find myself in situations that lie outside of my comfort zone, with the prerequisite that they are transformational opportunities.

One of the beautiful side-effects of death is the presence of a drained ego. This leaves little room and energy for the petty or overly materialistic. Accordingly, it hones us in on the gift of presence and aids in the re-establishment of priorities. In acknowledgement of the future, it is my intention to accept what arises in each moment, without judgement. Whether the energy of death is near or distant, it is my wish that its presence graces you and inspires you to exist with purpose and fulfillment.


Until further notice,


Sherise

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