“Memento Mori” Latin translation ‘Remember Death’.
In Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations he reflects on death reminding us that
“We could leave this life right now” – 2.11 Meditations
Further into the mediation Aurelius suggests death isn’t something to fear because if there is a world with gods they will do us no harm, but alternatively if there isn’t we won’t know any better.
The Stoics got it, they learned to accept death as something that is simply a part of life. But why can’t we act in the same way? Why do we need to go through the 5 steps of grief rather that skipping straight to the fifth one, acceptance, like the stoics?
No one prepares you for death, we try but no one is ever really ready for it. You might have grown up and with a family pet. Depending on how old you were when you first experienced the family pet ‘leaving’, you may have been told (like me) they had gone to ‘Deavon’ (dog heaven) or they went to a farm where a distant relative lives, to live out their days chasing rabbits or mice. If that happened, then you were shielded from the harsh realities of what happens. I remember watching my dad lift patio slabs and having to bury family cats, but nothing was ever really explained, I was just left with the confusion of death and what happens when we die. What happens next? Where do we go?
In 2017 I lost my mum when she was 58 to Glioblastoma which is a very aggressive stage 4 brain cancer that gave her 6 months of fast decline, losing functions like speech, memory, motor skills, and any filter that requires you to be polite in a social setting. My mum wasn’t ready to go, she had always pictured doing so much more, travelling, baking and being a grandmother, all things she loved doing. We had lost other family members in years before, like grandparents and distant aunties or uncles but it had been easier to move straight to acceptance when the family member was in their 80s or 90’s. That’s what is supposed to happen, right? As a family being faced with something so unexpected, we all attached our own emotions to deal with the situation in the best way we could, but the other thing I was not ready for was that the 5 stages of grief started to happen when my mum was still alive and furthermore, they aren’t linear. I was angry, my brother was in denial and my dad was in depression. How on earth do you come together when you are all experiencing the same situation but are all viewing it totally differently? You do the best you can. After the inevitable happens you feel detached from society, life slows down, the reality sinks in. I remember walking around feeling like everything was in slow motion whilst the rest of the world was continuing as if nothing had happened.
What got me through the tough times of early grief, was writing daily. I started with why I was grateful in those times and the blessings I could find in the darkest of moments. This released my emotions and got it onto the page and gave me that sense of relief. This not only helped me but also helped my wife understand my feelings and meant that I didn’t overload loved ones going through the same thing.
I now wear this ring from the daily stoic with the inscription ‘memento mori’ to remember death comes to us all and it isn’t something to fear. It is a daily reminder to give every ounce of effort to what is important to me and spend those moments in the present.
What next? Still need help?
We at Beam Training have created a course to help you deal with grief.
In the course you will cover.
How grief effects our behaviour, thoughts and feelings.
What the stages of grief look like.
How you can help others who are grieving.
Find out where you can go for support and find the right help.
You can access our courses on all devices and find out more Understanding Grief here
If you or someone you know have been affected by Gliobastomas or similar brain cancers you can find great support here.