Mortality & Grief | An TEL Gathering Reflection

Author: Mirabel | Facilitator of TEL

​Date: Nov 2021

Last night was the second gathering of “The Examined Life,” and our topic last night was mortality and grief. The 12 attendees, in different phases of their lives and of different cultural backgrounds, bonded over vulnerable, personal stories of death. We united, simply, in the fact that we’re all human.

Death is a culturally forbidden topic in most of the China I know. As far as my earliest memories go, I feared my grandparents’ deaths. Being a naturally sensitive person, I concluded at a young age that death was the worst loss of all because we simply never recover from it. But this fear was unspoken. Whenever I tried to raise this existential concern, the adults around me would say, “Now that’s a sinister thought. Don’t think about such sad events; be happy.” Older me now understand the way we dodge our death anxiety was in fact a somewhat healthy defense mechanism as life is so much more than death. However, we can’t avoid death forever; truth is, someday it comes back to haunt us. And this year it has. With both my partner's and my own grandparents getting increasingly ill, we realise it’s that time of our life that “the worst loss” isn’t far from us. So without much experience, I started grieving. I started grieving the dreams and future I looked forward to sharing with my grandparents. I started imagining life and a world without them. I started settling in with the fact that my future kids would probably never meet them, and that’s okay.

During this process, I realised how lonely grief can be. A friend’s therapist described the way she grieved her late boyfriend's sudden death as sitting in a dark room alone with dried tears all over her face, and there was no light at all. That’s an accurate description of grief, I thought. It’s a dark, inaccessible space, and we are thereby ourselves because of how tabooed it is to talk about one of the worst types of pain openly, and how rare it is to find a communal space that isn’t church or therapy that welcomes such discussions.

Credit: Tania Yakunova


Attendees shared with us the loss of friend, mother, father, partner, brother, uncle, some of which happened as recently as 3 months ago and some as far dated back as two decades ago. As a group, we grieved together by recounting the memories we had with our loved ones. We came to agree that confronting other’s and our own mortality guides us to lead more fulfilling lives. Many said they started living their lives drastically differently after staring death in the face. They started exercising more and saying yes (and no) more, gave up on suicidal attempts to let light sink in, and slowed down to appreciate the little moments of life frequently and unapologetically.

In different ways, we learned from and are transformed by our loss. If one can heal from a traumatic event, it ceases to be trauma and evolves into something that empowers and drives us. Yesterday was a gathering of empowerment, rather than sadness.

Credit: Joey Guidone


To learn more about our project and our future gatherings, please read the project introduction article: "The Examined Life | CandleX Monthly Event."


CHINESE:

昨晚是第二期的“The Examined Life”活动,主题是死亡和悲痛(mortality and grief)。十一位参加者尽管在人生的不同阶段,有着不同的文化背景,但每个人都有自己的关于生死的故事。让我们凑在一起的是对死亡的恐惧、担忧和对生活的思考,也可以简单地说,是“人性”两字。


在国内,死亡是一个忌讳的话题。从小,我最恐惧的事就是祖父祖母终将有一天离我而去,可这种恐惧似乎不可被提及。每当我试图向大人们表达我对死亡的焦虑时,他们便会说,“不要去想这些悲伤事儿,你看,他们现在不好好的吗?”长大了的我现在明白我们躲避死亡其实多少是个健康的防御机制,毕竟人活一辈子,不能总沉浸在对死亡的恐惧中。然而,我们也不能永远逃避,总有一天我们需要面对死亡——他人的死亡,自己的离去。今年,随着男友和我的祖父病重到病危,我们意识到死亡可能离我们越来越近。在对死亡思考得少之甚少的同时,我开始学习哀悼(grieve)。所谓哀悼,不仅仅是哀悼一个即将逝去的人,哀悼还有很大成分是去接受破灭的梦想和未来。我开始想象没有祖父的生活和世界。我开始接受我未来的孩子可能永远不会有机会认识世上我最爱的祖父……而这一切是生命最自然的规律,这不过是最正常的。


在这个过程中,我意识到悲痛是多么的孤独。一位朋友的咨询师将她沉浸在悲痛的状态描述成了这样一个画面:她独自坐在漆黑一片的房间里,一点光都进不来,她脸上全是干涸的泪水。这个描述十分形象。在一个黑暗、封闭的空间里,我们独自哭泣,沉浸在悲痛里。在我们的社会背景下,公开谈论死亡是禁忌,除了教堂和心理咨询室,我们很难找到慰藉。


于是,我希望能够营造一个温暖的环境,任何人都可以加入,无论年龄、国籍、文化、性取向。在这里。参加者既可以敞开心扉地分享自己的故事也可以静静地聆听。我想要的,是用一种温暖,一种开放,一种包容,战胜在面临人生最大挑战时我们都会深感的被遗弃的和孤独的感觉。


十一位参加者分享了失去好友、父母、伴侣、哥哥等经历,有的近在几个月前,有的近十年甚至二十年前发生。相同的是,悲痛一直都在。作为一个团体,我们通过讲述、分享与亲人的回忆来思念他们。直面死亡能够帮助我们更充实地生活,许多人说,在经历了死亡之后他们开始了截然不同的生活。他们开始更注意身体、积极锻炼,有人奋不顾身地投入到了热爱的事情里去,有人尝试着与父母慢慢和解关系,生活放慢速度,感恩生活。


我们以不同的方式从失去中学习与成长。如果一个人可以从创伤性事件中痊愈,那它就不再是创伤,而是演变成某种能够赋予我们力量和驱动力的东西。


为了解更多关于The Examined Life的介绍和未来活动,请阅读:"The Examined Life | CandleX Monthly Event."