Wholeness is Found in Life and Death

Wholeness is Found in Life and Death

by , Director of Religious Education & Exploration

This year I decided to roll out an adaptation of a death and dying curriculum called Lessons of Loss written by Carol Galginaitis. We are offering it to our middle school class for a five week run. Evan Wilson and I are meeting with the young teens and with the help of Aaron, we’re also meeting with their parents. Like talking about sex education, talking about death can feel tricky for adults and (a little less so) for children.

I spent a lot of time picking out and adapting lessons to sensitively lead into discussions, trying to create the least amount of “triggering” and wreak the least amount of havoc. We still wanted to impart the message that even though death is a normal part of life, it’s still ok to hurt and grieve when you lose someone or something. It’s ok to talk to someone about a person who has died in their life. It’s ok to remember and honor a life that is gone. It’s very healthy to memorialize and celebrate that life.

I shared with the class, that when my mother died suddenly at a young age, people sort of “stayed away” from me. I found that unsettling, because I really needed human compassion, empathy, and friendship at that time. My mother’s death was “triggering” to people. It was too sad. It was shocking. So, in their own brokenness, people assumed that I was also too broken to talk about it. I get it; I have been there and have felt that. As a class we discussed ways to help people who are grieving. One of the best things is to open communication as to how you can be of comfort.

I felt strongly about bringing this particular curriculum into the church to present to young people in the same way I felt strongly about offering OWL across the lifespan (Our Whole Lives- Human Sexuality.) It goes without saying that the wholeness of who you are as a unique individual in the world begins with your birth, where you came from, and continues as you do. Some of us will grow and make decisions about our lives, will come of age, will become further educated. Some of us may have a family. All of us will leave a legacy or a footprint on this earth. And then we will die. Death does not make a human being’s journey any less whole. Death does not break a fragment out of that person’s being and erase it. Just as you were whole in the womb, you were whole in birth, and whole as you occupy this planet, so are you whole in death. You have completed the circle. It’s all natural and inevitable. Just as we shouldn’t be uncomfortable when talking about birth…we should be able to comfortably talk about death.

We need not be allergic to tears of grief. We are not less than whole when we cry them. We are not broken if we feel despair and hurt sometimes. You won’t catch anything if you share in someone else’s grief.

While looking through our monthly Touchstone theme for April, I came across a very moving article by Karla Helbert:  The Wholeness of Grief

One paragraph from her essay that I really liked, and will be sharing with my class reads:

If you are a person who knows or loves someone who is grieving, reach out to that person. Be there to listen, to offer support. You don’t have to know the right thing to say or do. There is no right thing. Each instance of caring, each phone call, every card, every visit, each moment of sitting with, being with, talking, not talking, holding hands, being there, mentioning the name of the one who has died-offers a tangible thread of connection. Each act represents a thread of hope for wholeness. When someone is alone, confused, angry, desolate, desperate, broken, bereft-one thread of hope can be a lifeline.

Our Lessons of Loss students talk about loss, death, funerals, visit a funeral parlor, a cemetery, make a memorial quilt, and write a memorial service. We will talk about how other cultures celebrate the fact that one has lived. The students are much more comfortable than I thought they’d be. I’m in awe; they run circles around me at that age. I remember being so awkward, so spooked, so afraid of the unknown ramifications if I spoke of death. I am glad we can add to their comfort some good information, and a community of wholeness, sharing in the lessons of the living and of the dead.

To be whole is to live, to have community and loved ones who can share in the times you feel joy and also in the times of brokenness. To be whole is to know that when you die, who you grew to be does not dissolve. Those who love you will not become less whole when you are gone from this earth. You will always be a part of them, and them of you.

To achieve true wholeness, one needs to complete the circle.

With Love and Peace to You,

Robin