The one thing all human beings have in common is the fact that one day, our life will end in death. What does death mean to you? How does it make you feel? I recently had a unique opportunity to engage quite personally with these sometimes scary, often uncomfortable, typically taboo questions and examine my own history and understanding of them, as well.
I’ve experienced more death than I care to think about in the past several years. Three close family members–my mother and both of my maternal grandparents–passed one after the other in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Through these experiences, I thought I had a handle on the different aspects of death, the ins and outs, the befores and afters.
I learned how to care for a dying loved one, loved ones both cooperative and cognizant–and loved ones who were not-so-much. I learned how to navigate the complicated business of living wills and regular old wills and estate planning, and in the unfortunate case of my mother, no wills or planning at all. I learned how to grieve the loss of a pair of loving and generous grandparents, as well as the difficult relationship with my mother. I believed that through these intimate familial encounters with grief and loss, I had become familiar with death, and in doing so, faced some of my own innate fears.
As it turned out, this wasn’t the case at all. At the end of everything, once I had time to breathe again, it struck me all at once. I’d come to terms with the death of almost everyone important to me because I’d had to face the actual reality of their deaths, but now that the dust had settled and the metaphorical dirt had been shoveled over their graves (it wasn’t, though, they were all cremated) this left me with an awful lot of time to contemplate my own mortality. This shouldn’t be a problem, right? I’d cozied up to the dead and dying plenty of times by now–I was perfectly prepared to confront the idea of my own death, wasn’t I? It wasn’t until I had only myself to think about and plan for that I understood how limited my knowledge about death really was, and how tenuous my ideas regarding the afterlife were once I began to more closely examine them.
These realizations were unexpectedly paralyzing. The raising of these questions broke me and bruised me in ways that I never could have anticipated…and I found comfort and catharsis in an equally unexpected way.
Death Awareness Coach Claudia Crobatia’s Get Ahead of Death Course is a series of 31 videos, divided into 7 modules which encourages people to explore their own relationship with mortality and tackles many of these questions. Guiding us through the subject matter with grace and compassion, Claudia provides us tools to get more comfortable with the idea of death and reduce some of this death anxiety– along with helping us integrate the new perspectives we gain during the course and turning them into practical actions. What does death mean to you? What are your fears regarding the idea of death and how can you transform them? How have your own experiences with death in the past shaped how you feel about it, and do these ideas still make sense to you today?
Through these conversations Claudia stresses that each person’s death is as individual as each person’s life, and invites us, in the safe haven of these gentle videos and corresponding lessons, to prepare personal death plans, to create bucket lists for living our best lives, exercises for envisioning and mourning our own death, as well as being guided through your own death in a special death meditation.
This course is a way of connecting with your own mortality. It is not a cure for fear or pain, nor is it intended to be. But it provides the tools to explore those fears, to reflect on painful instances of grief and loss and make these feelings easier to bear. Before embarking on this Get Ahead of Death Course I didn’t even know what questions I had in order to seek answers; now it’s possible I have more questions than I know what to do with! And it is the awareness of these profound questions–and the seeking of answers– that I believe to be of key importance in living more authentically and fully. Now I have resources and tools to better address these questions and understand the answers I may find as I move forward through this one life I have, in the time I have left to me.
All imagery courtesy Claudia Crobatia.