Don’t Fear The Reaper

“It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new guise.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

In the last couple of weeks not only have I been running several grief groups at school, but I have also been working with quite a few of my own on-going clients who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. When doing grief work with children the question- “Miss Mary Anne, what happens when you die?” inevitably comes up at some point during the conversation. How can you answer that question for anyone who is in mourning, let alone a seven year old? Despite my best efforts at using evasive social work-y questions such as, “What do YOU think happens?” (gotta love answering a question with a question), kids always want to know what I personally think. My typical response in the past has been- “To be perfectly honest, I don’t know.”

This is a quandary great philosophical minds have been contemplating for millennia, and so much of it is rooted in faith and what religious institutions dictate. This puts me in a bind because, if you have been reading my blog you will know, that I don’t, and never have fit into any one religious genre. I have no religious text or spiritual leader to enlighten me (and despite things being a bit challenging sometimes, I actually prefer it that way). So I have never been able to say with any real conviction that I know what happens for sure when you kick the bucket. I struggle with the notion- that you die, your body is put into the ground where it rots, and that’s it. There has to be something more, otherwise life seems sort of meaningless. As a result, I have always gravitated toward the concept of reincarnation because intellectually it makes sense to me. Everything is made of energy and science has proven that energy can never be lost or destroyed, just transferred. This is a pretty simplistic explanation of reincarnation I know, but I have never heard any other good arguments for or against it.

Then in December, while I was perusing Half Price Books looking for gifts for family members, I stumbled across a book called Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss in the spirituality section. The book is based on Weiss’s practice as a psychologist, and looked really interesting, so I wrote down the name and checked it out of the library for some light reading while I was on Christmas break. (Is it sad that mental health non-fiction is my idea of a “fun” read?)

The book revolves around “Catherine” a client who sought Weiss’s help in dealing with many debilitating phobias and anxiety. Weiss treated her with standard psychotherapy for eighteen months, (that’s a long ass time to be in therapy) with little to no improvement, when he decided to try hypnotherapy and regression techniques to get to the “root” of her problems. Even these strategies weren’t working very well until Weiss got the idea to suggest that she “remember the time when her symptoms began” while she was under hypnosis. What ended up happening was Catherine started talking about past life experiences she had hundreds and thousands of years ago in many different parts of the world. The craziest thing of all? After re-experiencing her past lives (and many past life deaths), her symptoms completely disappeared. Since then, Weiss has regressed hundreds of people and been able to later validate much of the detailed information clients have given about a particular culture or place where they lived in another life.

The theory I find the most interesting, however, is with all his experience he has discovered that clients will “recognize” people from their current lives again and again as people they loved or cared about in lives past. This has lead Weiss to believe that souls travel together across time in groups or “soul families,” which usually consists of 4-5 souls who end up being family and friends, plus one “soul mate.” (Maybe there is something to what my psychic friend told me after all, if you don’t know what I am talking about see my previous post here.) The idea that people who are near and dear to you right now have probably been family members, lovers, and friends throughout all your previous lives is such an intriguing concept.

I believe Weiss’s work could bring a lot of peace to grieving family members, or to those who struggle with their own mortality. Many people are terrified of death and dying, and as such, take extreme measures to avoid talking about it/and or to curtail death for as long as they can. Weiss makes a wonderful comment about this in another one of his books- Only Love Is Real (yes I ended up reading them all, I am a nerd). He says-

“Our bodies and souls are like cars and their drivers. Always remember you are the driver and not the car. Don’t identify with the vehicle. The emphasis these days on prolonging the duration of our lives, on living to one hundred year of age or more, is madness. It’s like keeping your old Ford going past 200,000 miles, past 300,000. The body of the car is rusting out, the transmission has been rebuilt five times, things are falling off the engine, and yet you refuse to turn it in. Meanwhile, there is a brand new Corvette waiting for you right around the corner. All you have to do is gently step out of the old Ford and slide into the beautiful Corvette. The driver, the soul, never changes. Only the car.”
I am not going to lie, even now after reading Weiss’s work, when children ask me what I think about death I still try to avoid answering 1) because it’s not my place to tell them what to believe and 2) because I have no idea how the hell you explain reincarnation to a child. Regardless, in my own life I can’t help but take solace in the knowledge that death is not necessarily an ending, but a new beginning. A beginning that will surely be filled with loved ones lost and found yet again.
I may not be ready yet to take Death by its cold clammy hand and skip off into the afterlife throwing daisies in my wake, for one thing I don’t believe my work in this life is done yet, but when it is my time I would like to think I will go peacefully rather than kicking and screaming. Throwing tantrums are for little ones and God only knows I deal with enough of that at work. Besides, when I am a crusty old geezer I would much rather trade in my beat up old Caddy for a shiny red Mustang convertible and wave sayonara to the geriatric ward as I drive off into the sunset and a new life… Wouldn’t you?
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