How to Handle The Death of Loved Ones
These past few weeks, I have been attending a workshop on traditional Chinese culture. Venerable Jing Kong is considered a hero in revitalizing traditional Chinese culture, and last week, he passed away. Many people all around the world were extremely upset. Some people were in denial. Some people felt empty.
Fortunately, those of us in the workshop had the guidance of good teachers, and they helped me recover after a couple of days. Lots of people were not as fortunate as me, and they continue to be depressed and sullen. Facing the death of loved ones is inevitable in life, so I wanted to share four things I learned from this experience.
1: Be loving while they are alive.
One teacher said,
"If you wait until they are dead to cry in agony, then you were not loving and dutiful enough while they were alive. Cherish them now. Then you won't feel regret when they're gone."
My two grandmas are pretty old now, and I reflected on whether there was anything I still need to say to them or do with them. The main thing I wish for is to spend time with them, but I can't return to China to visit them right now due to visa restrictions. Hence, I can focus on the next best thing, which is to call and message them more. As long as we try our best, there is nothing to regret.
I also try to not hold any grudges or conflicts in my heart. If I encounter any misunderstandings, I do my best to communicate and untangle the conflict as soon as possible. After all, no one can guarantee if they will still be alive on this Earth tomorrow. If we imagine that the person we have conflict with might die tomorrow, then we would naturally tell them how much we care about them, and that the conflicts are insignificant. Here is a great video on this topic:
2: Follow the Middle Way: Not too little. Not too much.
It is fine and normal to be sad and to cry when a loved one passes, but we should remember the Middle Way. We should not suppress our emotions. Suppressing our emotions is very harmful for our health. At the same time, we should not be excessive in our emotions. For example, some people become so depressed that they refuse to eat for many days, which then damages their health greatly. If we realize that our emotions are excessive and impacting our ability to function normally, then we need to seek help.
A great thought exercise to do is to imagine what the deceased person would say to us if they saw us depressed right now. They would probably say something like,
"I know you are sad. Don't be so sad for so long. I want you to continue living a good and happy life."
This helps us realize that to be truly loving towards them, we should recover our regular life and peaceful emotions sooner rather than later.
3: Ask them their wishes for you while they are alive.
If we are clear on what our loved ones wish for us, then we can work towards fulfilling their wishes while they are still alive. Then, when they are gone, we won't feel like we neglected them.
In other words, go ask your parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, or any other loved ones,
"What do you hope for me?"
I asked this question to my parents and mentors, and I work towards their hopes for me every day. It is also a great conversation topic to revisit every once in a while. When we update them on how we are working towards their hopes for us, they will surely feel happy and loved. This way, we can prevent feelings of regret or emptiness when they depart this world. After they pass, we can turn the sadness we feel about their passing into motivation to continue living their hopes for us.
4: Carry on their dreams.
While they are alive, we should also ask them what their dreams and aspirations for themselves are. We can then help them towards fulfilling their goals both when they are alive and after they pass. For example, my hero worked hard to revitalize traditional Chinese culture. Now that he is gone, I should continue to contribute to his mission. I can turn any sadness I feel about his passing into motivation to carry on his legacy.
Above are four things I learned this past week due to the passing of a loved one. If you have other wisdom on this topic, I would love to learn.
What we can do today is to reflect on these questions:
Have I been loving enough to my loved ones?
Do I have any grudges or misunderstandings that I would regret not resolving if they passed away tomorrow?
Do I know very clearly what my loved ones hope for me?
Do I know the dreams and aspirations of my loved ones?
Weekly Wisdom Newsletter #197
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