One of the most difficult challenges in life, as we age, is the fact of our mortality. When we are young, we often feel invincible and death is an incomprehensible abstraction that we really can’t wrap our minds around. Some children and young adults have experienced a premature death in their family—a parent becomes ill with cancer or a sibling is killed in an accident. This is a terribly disruptive experience for young people and leaves a life-long impression on them. It is very hard for the child or young adult to wrap their minds around the concepts of death and their own mortality.
As we age, we tend to experience more losses, some due to the illness or disability of a family member or close friend, some because of a crisis in our own health or mental health. How do we deal with the unpredictability of life, our increasing awareness of our own fragility, and the delicate balance of life and death that exists for all of us? Some people find comfort in their religious beliefs, although even those can be taxed and challenged at times of extreme personal tragedy. Others find a philosophy of life that embraces both the wonderful and fragile nature of our human existence. There are many ways of working with the reality of our human existence.
It is possible to embrace life even in the face of our awareness and our experiences of loss. While it doesn’t work to completely deny the reality of our vulnerability, sometimes a little denial is a good thing! Certainly, where we put our focus makes a large difference. We can focus on our values, our goals, and our loved ones and we can cultivate an ongoing attitude of gratitude for the positive aspects and easier times in our lives. Some people come by joy quite naturally, but most of us have to work at it and learn the skills that help us cope with our own impermanence.
A few questions to consider:
1) How do you work with the realities of vulnerability, loss, and the fragility of life?
2) Are you able to embrace life in spite of these realities (or perhaps even because of these realities?)
3) What advice would you give your children or other young people about how they can work with these facts of life? Are you able to embrace your own wisdom?