Death is not just a saying goodbye, and more than just grief.
Through death you also become more aware of the love for another
and the love of the other for you.
Love never dies, love is eternal
When my mother died in June 2019 at 94 years of age, I wrote these words for her memory card.
For several years before she died, she began to suffer from dementia, a process that paradoxically brought us closer together. She grew up in a severe, straight-laced Protestant environment, and she always carried that with her. It annoyed me, especially when I was a child. At a later age, she became increasingly milder and we grew closer to each other. Her dementia accelerated this process.
I remember walking with her as she told me how she was embarrassed that she no longer knew who was alive and who was not. For example, she often thought that her parents were still alive. I told her that this was understandable. I explained that her parents really still lived and waited for her. As she grew older, she became closer to them and began to feel their presence more. What she imagined was in fact true. Thanks to the dementia, she began to be open to those kinds of thoughts. She was able to let go of her old, rigid ideas during that final phase of life. The sweet, gentle woman she was in her essence began to emerge ever more.
I somewhat compare living and dying to the life of a caterpillar that undergoes the process of becoming a butterfly. Throughout life you are like a caterpillar, you crawl around and have no idea of the butterfly that you are in your essence. Then your world becomes smaller, old age enters, the caterpillar turns into a cocoon. Not nice if you believe that the cocoon is the end, but great if you know that in that cocoon the transformation to butterfly takes place. When you get old and you can sense the butterfly, you have a happy old age, but if you only feel the dying caterpillar then you are unhappy.
In my mother I felt the butterfly was born; there grew more and more love between us.
She died in the nursing home where she spent the last years of her life.
Shortly before her body was taken away, I was given a moment alone with her. I gave her a kiss, and said, "When we meet again there will be love between us." Grief and Love went together. Everything is now well between us.
In this article, I would like to talk about the survivors. How do we deal with the death of a loved one, with the sorrow, the empty hole left in our hearts that follows the death of a loved one?
Belief in a life after death generally does not really help. You will not feel less pain and emptiness than someone who is an atheist. You often see that faithful people develop a very cramped attitude toward their faith after the loss of their loved one. They are angry with God and forcefully suppress the doubt that arises. Or they suppress their sorrow; after all, their loved one is in heaven and happy, so they should be happy. And when they are not happy, they feel that is wrong.
Simply believing that the beloved lives on is not the solution. Neither is the atheist explanation that the other is gone forever, and that there is also a wound that never can, never will, heal.
The solution, in which I believe, is the way of the heart: the experience that love is a reality that transcends time and space. Truly feel, and let love in. Experience through that love that the other is still there.
The pain of death
We live in two worlds: the outer world and the inner. Almost everything we learn in school is about the world around us: that is where things happen; it is where you have to make it. As soon as a child is occupied with his inner world, it is called to their attention. Daydreaming is not allowed; he or she should listen to the lessons in class. This is how we get the message: the outer world is important, not the inner one.
How then do you cope with your feelings, with sadness, with anger? How do you relate to others? How do you make good use of your creativity?
We are taught to find our way in the world around us, but not in our inner world – no geography lessons about our inner world, no matter how extensive that world is.
We do not learn the value of the inner world, and thus of ourselves. In fact, many of us believe that this inner world is not even a part of that outer world – we are our brains. Thus, all the laws of the outer world also apply to the inner world; if something or someone disappears from the outer world, then it also vanishes from the inner world.
It is not difficult to see that this does not add up. As I write this; I listen to the beautiful Miserere of Allegri. It gives me a great sense of beauty; a beauty I will never be able to discover by studying someone's brains. Someone who is born deaf will never be able to find out how to hear by studying the brains and ears of someone who can hear. Studying someone's brain does not give any insight into the inner world of that person, and so the inner world is not explainable by observing the outer world. That inner world is the source of a lot of beauty; not only music, but also literature, painting, architecture, movies, games, etc. It all stems from the human spirit, and there is something else there: love.
We can endlessly study the world around us, the natural laws, the atoms, but we will not find love there. Love is something of the inner world. Love comes to fruition as we connect with the inner world of another from our own inner world: the all-transcending connection from heart to heart. That death is such a great drama in our lives largely stems from the fact that we neglect our inner world. Because we have come to think that the laws of time and space also apply to our inner world.
The pain that death causes stems from the belief that if a person disappears from our outer world, then he or she is completely gone. And along with that, the inner bond – the bond of love between two people – also falls away. The beloved not only disappears in our outer world, but a hole is also struck within us.
Coping with loss: the victory over death
How can we heal the terrible hole that is caused by the death of a loved one?
1) Give the hopeful a chance
If we are absolutely sure that death is the end, that everything in the past is lost forever, then along with this thought we block out every solution. The pain in us can never heal, the hole will never be filled. We then have built a dam between the hole inside us and the healing water that wants to flow in: the flow of love of the other who is still there.
Healing begins by giving the positive, the hopeful a chance. If we have to choose between the negative and the positive in our lives, and we do not know which is true, then it is always wise to choose the positive. After all, opting for the negative will certainly not bring us anything, but choosing the positive may bring us something beautiful.
In this case, what is the positive?
That at the deepest level, our inner world stands apart from time and space as we see it in the outer world. We experience time and space, but at the inner level we are not limited to that. Eternal life is not that you go on endlessly with the flow of time, but that the deepest, most essential part of you has never entered the stream of time.
Look in the mirror, see how your body changes, ages, yet feel there is something deep within you that does not change, that always remains the same. Hope arises if you give that feeling a chance – maybe it is true that your body ages but you don't.
If you have looked in the mirror and give that feeling of timelessness a chance, consider this thought: we cannot die because death is something that takes place in time and we are independent of the time.
Hope is what you find when you no longer refuse to reason yourself away.
You are a miracle.
You find hope by simply refusing to reason away your deceased loved one.
Their consciousness has withdrawn from the flow of time and space in which you still exist. The love that flows from heart to heart is still there – if at least you are willing to receive it.
2) Give love a chance
The above thoughts are of course abstract, but give them a chance. Take the next exercise.
Imagine waking up in another world after your death; you feel lighter and filled with love. All worries, fears, and burdens are gone. You feel brighter, freer, and filled with love. You think of the people on Earth whom you left behind. You feel them, you see their worries, you see how fixated they sometimes are, and stuck in ideas and prejudices. You also see them struggling to free themselves from them.
No longer hindered by your own earthly worries and fears, you are suddenly filled with love and understanding for the people you left behind. You were a caterpillar; you have become a butterfly. All the fears in you have made room for love.
You try to send the huge love you feel inside to those who are left behind. Unfortunately, they are hardly open. They are stuck too much in their rigid ideas, their pain – and perhaps the sadness about your passing. They are convinced that you are no longer there, are no longer heard, and cannot be felt, and thus they are completely closed to your love. There is a transmitter, you, but the receivers have turned themselves off.
So, what do they have to do to open their hearts, to feel your great love for them?
3) Open Your heart
Now you are the ones that remain behind. And the deceased whom you mourn is transformed into a source of love – love for you. How can you open up to that love? How can you open your heart?
To start: open up to that possibility. If nothing happens, if you do not notice anything, you afterwards can still reject this possibility.
So, you are open to the possibility that the deceased is a source of love for you. But that love also needs a receiver that needs to be tuned in. That receiver is your heart.
Do the following: go to your heart, turn your mind off, and feel your heart. Imagine the deceased as a beautiful radiant Angel – very radiant, completely filled with love for you.
Then tell yourself: I am willing to receive that love. I feel that our love bond transcends death; the heart connection is eternal.
And then feel how love begins to flow.
Feel it in your heart – you are not alone.
Feel surrounded by sources of love.
Receive and give back.
Shift your focus from your outward reality – where death exists – to the inner reality where there is no death, only love.
Then think of your pain, your grief – all your earthly worries. Let the love flow gently there.
Believe in that love. There is no death.
Do you feel better now?
Finally: The reality of the heart
Many people honor two idols: space and time. These two idols classify everything into compartments, ensuring that everything is neatly divided.
Those two idols have a child: death. When space and time are omnipotent, everything is divided, and everything falls apart sooner or later – unity is an illusion. Death, the falling apart from an apparent unity, always wins. People that love intensely can disappear forever into an eternal night.
Scientifically, this so-called obvious fact has long ago become obsolete. Time and space are actually one thing: the time space continuum; that time-space is not above the unity of the universe, but is part of it. Questions such as how big and how old is the universe are therefore also meaningless: the universe is not something that exists in time and space.
Light stands separate from time and space. All the light of the universe, including that of past and future, is one in an eternal now.
If the universe is one, why would we be different?
Let us accept, that deep inside ourselves we stand separate from time and space. That which is called light in the outer world, is called Love in the inner world.
The reality of the heart is the truth of timeless love, and the source of that love, that is us. The reality of the heart also means we can choose to let be born, as an angel in us, everyone we said goodbye to when they went to the other realm.
Imagine this: every time someone dies, a piece is illuminated in us; every time someone dies, we feel more loved. Death is not the end of love, but the awakening of a timeless unconditional love. When we die, our fears and worries disappear, that small, unreal world we leave behind so that our true self can be born as a shining star of love.
Do not say goodbye, but embrace eternal love.