After Death: What We Know and What We Don’t
Death has mystified people since the beginning of recorded history. A great many cultures and religions have traditions about what happens to us after death. Many of these traditions include beliefs about a life that somehow goes on after our life on earth has ended, but these traditional beliefs vary widely across cultures. In other words, death is full of conjecture and mystery. However, there are certainties about death.
The changed relationship after death
The first certainty about death is that we will have a changed relationship with the person who died. Even if they have a life that extends beyond the grave, our relationship with that person has irreversibly changed; for many people, this change in relationship is painful and very unwelcome. And yet, even in death, we still have a relationship with them. Those of us that remain alive have to find a new way to have a relationship with the person that has died.
We are affected
The second certainty about death is that we are affected by it. For many people, this means a period of grief and mourning. We bring the person to mind and we reflect on them. We think about our life with them, and we savor the good memories. Many of us experience regret about our relationship with the person who has died, wishing we had been different. We wonder about how life will be without this person; sometimes we wonder if life can go on at all. Even for people who don't feel a sense of grief at some deaths are likely to feel it with other deaths – or later, sometimes years later.
Different but unchanged
The third certainty about death is that for life has changed for those of us that still live – and yet life is also unchanged. Some say “life goes on” but that can seem like an insult to us – how can life possibly go on after death? And yet, there are still bills to pay, the news on television, the passage of the seasons, the day-to-day ups and downs, the inhalation and exhalation of breath. Even though our life has been shattered, we need to find a way to make a new sense of our life in the light of unbearable loss.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Now, read about some practical ways to help someone grieve.
– Tim Hill