Human beings deal with death in different ways. Some people show their pain openly and look for support—others isolate themselves from the world. There is no right or wrong way to cope with death, but whatever your experience is, it comes a time when you have to let go. Life goes on.
For me, letting go means seeing the big picture. When we love someone is hard to understand the signs—but if we look closely, we can see that their death was unfolding in front of our eyes.
My aunt was in her 80s when she died. She had ovarian cancer, and when the doctors found out, the tumor had already metastasized. My aunt didn’t want to go through surgery, and we knew her days were numbered. When I look back at her life, I see a woman who didn’t take good care of herself. She smoked a lot, didn’t eat well, and she had an emotional wound that she never recovered from—her only son died when he was 35 years old. If I step away from the pain of losing my aunt, I can see that there was no other way things could go. What I mean by that, is that she was slowly walking towards death—from the moment she decided to isolate herself to the moment she got cancer. The truth is that she never recovered from the loss of her only son. I don’t judge her for that—I’m just trying to say that if I take a step back, I can see her path clearly.
My friend, and spiritual teacher, told me that it’s natural to hold on to the people we love. She thinks that we ignore the signs because we can’t accept the idea that the person we love is walking towards death. There was nothing we could do as a family to save my aunt, and that gives me some peace of mind. The pain remains, but seeing the big picture has helped me to let go. Wherever she is now, I know she is happy, and I hope she was able to hug her lost son. I wasn’t at her funeral because she lives in Italy, and I couldn’t travel. To be honest, a dark Catholic funeral where everybody cries is not the way I want to honor her. I wish we could do a celebration of her vivacious spirit, her contagious laugh, her funny jokes, and her creativity—reading her poems. I have been to funerals in the U.S., and I love how people gather to eat, drink and talk about happy memories—people cry there too, but the atmosphere is uplifting. I’m sure that my aunt would have loved that!
When I think about my aunt, I see her face lighting up when I went to visit her, and the benevolent way she used to say: “You’re crazy!” when I talked about my dreams and trips around the world. I have poems that she sent me throughout the years to celebrate my milestones. I read them often, and I imagine her writing them.
I believe that letting go means accepting the path that the person took‚—even if it caused us pain. If you lost someone, just know that there was nothing you could do to save them. Cry, vent—but don’t hold on to the pain—hold on to happy memories!