Let’s cut right to the chase… A friend of mine went to his friend’s house looking for him. The back door was open, so he went in. And his friend was no longer alive. He was dead. He had died of an apparent heart attack, I think it was.
Most people have never experienced something like this, and I certainly haven’t. I watched my dad die after a short bout with lung cancer back in 2002 in a hospital, the same one in which I was born. I was living in California at the time, and I got a message from my mom saying that my dad was in the hospital and was not going to be leaving. I knew what that meant. I remember exactly where I was standing when I got that message. I’d spent the weekend in San Diego with my friend Rusty, and I was about to drive back to Palm Springs. He said, “Are you ok?” It was pretty intense, to say the least. It was a very emotional time from that moment until I landed in Pensacola, rode to the hospital with my mom and grandfather, and got into the room where my dad was. Or where an almost dead body was. Something pretty awesome happened, though. I lived the farthest away, so my two brothers were already there. When I walked in the room, that grey, almost lifeless body started kicking as best it could. He knew I had arrived and that all his boys were there. He didn’t have to wait any longer. We said what we wanted to say and just loved him and loved each other as we watched the readings on the machines decline. Blood pressure, heart rate, etc., all slowly going to zero. Surreal.
I saw this coming, though. Even though it was my dad, I had a heads up. I was as prepared as possible. My friend was not and had no way to be. It’s just a different situation. He walked into what he did not expect. I helped another friend bury his beloved dog a while back, and I could barely touch the dog. And I’m someone who does not believe we’re really these bodies and thus does not believe in death. But actually touching that dead dog still freaked me out. And that’s fine. So I cannot imagine the power of walking into a friend’s house and finding him no longer alive.
So the question is, what needs to be done to fully process this? The main thing is to feel. That’s why I’m writing about it here – as unusual a situation as it is, I want my readers to understand crystal clear how it ties into everything else we talk about it. Always keep in mind that my goal is to help humans understand themselves as much as possible. Human 101, Thinking 101, Feeling 101. Universal stuff.
This is a traumatic event. When a traumatic event happens, that basically means tons of feeling, and probably too much to feel at once. The body is not designed to handle all of that at once, so it holds some of it. This protects us. After the event, though, we should actively seek to release every bit of it. What does this look like? When you feel like crying, cry. No story, no thinking, just crying. Just straight up feeling and releasing. When you feel anger in your body, just allow your body to have anger in it at that time. Same with sadness, guilt, or anything else that you feel. Grief has all of them. Every time you do this, something you were holding leaves your system. Permanently. There’s probably more, so repeat process. When any feelings arise, you just notice them, allow them to be there, and allow them to move on at their own pace. Whatever you do, don’t ignore them. If they are ignored, then they’ll come out on their own later in the form of various side effects, physical or mental. This is not what you want. But I promise, it’s just feelings that have to be felt. You are absolutely strong enough to do that. Some exercise can be a good idea, too, to really shake the body around. We hold this stuff in our bodies, after all.
Aside from lots of feeling, we might have to take a look at our thinking. If we’re fine in that category, then there’s no problem. But if we start to see things differently or question how we see the world, then that’s not something to be ignored. It’s normal under the circumstances. This isn’t an advertisement for seeing a therapist, but a therapist is an example of a person with whom you can talk about your beliefs. And talking about the situation makes feelings come to the surface as well, so that’s good. And back to the thinking category, if we’re telling a story that life isn’t fair or why me or something like that, then it’ll only serve to keep the feelings stuck. So if any work needs to be done in the thinking department, by all means do what you have to do whether it involves seeing someone or not.
A final word on feeling is to do our best not to wallow in them. This is a subtle but major point that I’ll be stressing more and more here at A Clean Mind. We feel them and allow them to be there, but we also remind ourselves that this is normal under the circumstances. We keep a little bit of space in between the core of who we are, our true identity, and these feelings that are temporary by definition. Then we go on about our day. We breathe a little more deeply, maybe. We try to keep the mind chatter down as best we can. When we live in this way, the feelings are able to flow and move on. They won’t be there forever.
The final thing that comes to mind involves our beliefs about death. Since the death of all bodies is inevitable, and we’re all heading straight for it, it’s a good idea to confront this and get as cool with it as we can. And I don’t mean seeing or touching a dead body, as with the dog above. That will probably always freak me out, and that’s fine. That’s normal. Some people in school were cooler with dissection in science class than others. No problem. I’m talking about the concept of death. I’m talking about being okay with the fact that all bodies will die. I’m talking about being okay with reality. If you are not okay with this, then I’d definitely get on it. Talk to someone or look around the bookstore or internet. There’s an excellent movie on Netflix called The Afterlife, for example, featuring two medical doctors. There’s a ton of information out there and more coming all the time as humans expand. I talk about this stuff with clients all the time. So do what you have to do to at least be able to accept death, because it’s not going anywhere.
As for walking in on somebody, though, there’s not a whole lot of preparation for that. But feeling is the key. That’s my main message here. Make sure to feel and to not hold it in. It either stays inside or leaves, and we want it out. And if it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, then talk to someone. This is the science of a whole lot of emotion.