Death Teaches You to Live

After the burial, dressed in traditional Ghanaian cloth worn by the family members of the deceased. Black and white design for an elderly person who has passed.

My grandmother was recently buried and the funeral was another reminder that life is uncertain. Besides a mildly fading memory, she was relatively healthy and lived 90 years strong.  Growing up in Canada I never forged the type of relationship many of my friends had with their grandmothers. It was only over the last few years that I had a chance to get to know her with my more frequent visits to  Ghana. 

The process brought back memories of losing my father 9 1/2 years ago. It also brought memories of others over the years whose lives were cut short either through illness or an accident. When we lose people in the physical realm it reminds us of how precious our time here really is. It’s a wake up call to live life fully.  It’s also a reminder that we shouldn’t be afraid to say things from the heart while those you love are still here. 
Everyone will face losing someone. It’s beyond our control. The ability to cope is never easy and takes time.  I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned after dealing with death in different times of my life. Hopefully what I share will help someone else.

Grieve Your Own Way

When someone dies the sense of loss is the most painful part. Realizing you’ll never see or speak to that person again is a difficult process to deal with. Everyone deals with loss differently. Some scream, others shout, some are flooded with tears while some are quiet and have no tears at all.

One of the things I took offense to at my grandmother’s funeral was the constant questioning of “Did you cry? Did you go and cry when you saw her?”  I know that culturally in Ghana it seems some people think if you don’t cry you’re not greiving. So some people will even fake crying just to uphold the image of real grief. The reality is, everyone is different. We all grieve in our own way. It’s important that we allow and respect the way another person deals with loss. It’s not going to be the same as someone else.  

Above anything, allow yourself to grieve in your own way. Discover what gives you the most solace and peace. It will come naturally to you.  

Planning Ahead

A funeral teaches is why planning your own funeral is something we should all consider. I know it’s a scary thing for a lot of people to think about the day you die. In Ghanaian culture, people are afraid to talk about their own death. As if to believe speaking about it will bring death prematurely. But if you plan, it saves a lot of work for those left behind. My father having planned things for his funeral took so much stress away from us and allowed us to both greive and not worry about the many details that could cause disagreements and arguing among family. Even though he made his decisions there were still some that disagreed with the choices, but we could take comfort knowing we were following exactly what he desired.

Life Goes On

“No matter what happens, life goes on” ~Joe Prosper

Those were my father’s words when he knew he was leaving this world. He knew we would greive the loss, but he also knew that life will go on. Death has never resulted in people ceasing to live life. 

When someone dies, the reality of learning to live without that person gets stronger each day.  Step by step we figure out how to cope.  Life does go on. We don’t stop. We can’t stop. In fact we should learn to live more.  After all, we don’t know when all will come to an end for us. Whether rich or poor, we all will die one day.

This is the time to really choose to live life fully. When facing the fact that life is not permanent, how you choose to live will have a greater impact on yourself and those around you. 

Take the opportunity to be thankful. We often take the simple things for granted and a part of living fully is embracing the little blessings we have each day. Practice being thankful by acknowledging at least one thing each day.  I believe in God so for me, I would say thank God for the little blessings. 

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