The Death of You
My new book, The Death of You: A Book for Anyone Who Might Not Live Forever comes out tomorrow via Wisdom Publications!! To celebrate I’m releasing this month’s free article a week early AND it’s an excerpt from the book!! Check it out, and pick the book up wherever you get books!
A middle way
Now, we don’t personally know what dying is like, but we do
know that, from a physical standpoint at least, being alive
and being dead are pretty different. You can call a living
friend on the phone or pop by their house to visit. You cannot
do that with your dead grandparent. (You can try, I
guess, but it will be very different than when they were
alive. I’m betting. And if their phone number has since
been given to someone else, you will have a very confused
stranger on the line wondering why you’re calling them
Think about someone you love deeply. You wish they
could live forever! You could spend your life afraid that they
will die, wishing with all your might that they won’t, until
one day they do. Or, you could enjoy the time you are given
with them, softly aware that, yes, someday it will be over.
I’d rather spend my time present than worrying. And it’s
totally doable, being present. Worries might still arise, but
over time we can get better at letting them go rather than
allowing them to overtake us. This is our practice.
Another way to go, on the opposite end of the spectrum,
would be to completely ignore the fact that this person you
love is going to die someday. A sort of out-of-sight, out-of-mind
mentality. Maybe, if you don’t think about them
dying, they just won’t! Until they do, and it will be pretty
fucking hard to ignore, and you won’t be prepared for it
But there’s a middle way.
In this middle-way scenario, you have put in time understanding
and exploring the reality of death. You’ve become
reasonably aware of the finite nature of life. Because
of this, you are neither compelled to sit around worrying
that your loved one will die, nor to take your time together
for granted. You know that time is limited and you appreciate
it. In a certain sense, this is the absence of clinging and
This same mentality can be applied even after your
loved one has died. At that point the truth becomes that
they are gone. You don’t get a choice about that. It will hurt.
You will undoubtedly experience very real, very profound
pain. But it’s possible to feel that pain and not cause yourself
Feeling that pain is hard, but it sure beats aversion. I
tried the aversion route when my mother and sister died,
and I can tell you: it’s impossible. You might spend a decade
on drugs, desperately trying not to feel the pain, but all you
will have done is prolonged it, turning it into real, ongoing
You won’t do much better with clinging. Your loved one
will remain very dead, and no amount of wishing and
wanting will make the truth untrue.
So we return to the middle.
In the middle, we can feel the pain. We can be truly,
deeply sad about our loved one’s passing. But we can also
feel joy. We can have good days. We can move forward in
our lives. We can find beauty all around us. We can allow
ourselves to be transformed by our pain into something