The Happiness Connection  

Dealing with death

The topic that’s top of mind for me this week is death.

My dad has lived for almost 93 years. He’s had adventures, challenges, and amazing experiences. Sadly, for me and my family, the end is approaching.

He recently had a fall that resulted in a compression fracture in his spine. My dad is stoic. He doesn’t complain when he’s sick or hurting. If he admits he’s in pain, you can be sure it’s excruciating.

He’s saying he’s in pain.

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you probably know that I believe everyone is responsible for their own life. You’re only a victim of your circumstances if you choose to be one.

Where you are at this moment is the culmination of the decisions, actions, and beliefs you’ve chosen up to this point. If you don’t like where you are or the life you have, you have the ability to change it.

If each one of us is responsible for our own lives, does that mean we’re also responsible for our own deaths?

This question doesn’t apply to people whose lives are cut short by accidents and disease, but what about suicide, or situations like my dad’s?

It always saddens me to see the level of guilt and responsibility felt when someone you know takes their own life.

When you consider that approximately 4,000 Canadians commit suicide every year, it’s unlikely that you haven’t been touched by someone who made the decision to end their life.

It doesn’t matter whether they were a casual friend, a close one, or a family member, you’re likely to wonder if you could have done something to help them.

  • Did you miss signs of them struggling?
  • Were they calling out for help, but you ignored them?
  • Did you do something wrong as a parent, sibling, or friend?

I’m sure this is one reason why suicide is accompanied by such feelings of shame. Whether you realize it, you wonder if you’re in some way responsible for what happened.

I don’t believe you are. The decisions someone makes about their life is not your responsibility, nor are the choices they make about their death.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care or do our best to be aware of people who are struggling so we can offer them support and love. But ultimately the decisions they make are theirs.

I have first-hand experience of being suicidally depressed. If not for the appearance of my daughter, I’m not sure I’d be here today.

Not many people knew how I was feeling. I was great at pretending everything was just fine and putting on a brave face while I was dying inside.

My dad has never been an advocate of assisted death, until now. He’s ready to leave this life. I don’t believe it matters whether I agree with his decision or not.

I’ve chosen to assist him with his choice to apply for the MAiD (Medical Assistance in Death) program. It’s his life and ultimately, he should get to choose.

If you struggle to let go of your feelings of responsibility when it comes to another person’s life or death, use the power of forgiveness to help you.

Forgive yourself for feeling the way you do. Forgive anyone else who’s involved. Forgive the situation.

When I need to do this, I use the Ho’oponopono Prayer to help me write letters of forgiveness. I start a paragraph with each of the statements and then add whatever feels right.

  • I'm sorry.
  • Please forgive me.
  • I love you.
  • Thank you.

When I’ve written all the letters that seem appropriate, I burn or shred them to symbolically release my feelings.

Over the coming days, weeks, or months, you may need to repeat this process as more feelings arise. Keep forgiving until you feel at peace with what happened.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.Lewis B. Smedes

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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