What I've Learned About Death

shannonhugman

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It was July 2012. My sister and I were out when we got a call from my dad. He sounded desperate and needed us to come home right away. As we pulled up, there was an ambulance in front of our home. My dad then told us that our Mom was dead.

She died unexpectedly in her sleep, and I was lucky to have kissed her goodnight for the final time. We had no idea just how sick she was, and she was too strong to admit it to us.

While the shock of reality rocked my body, there was this subtle sense that her love was still alive.

Over the last eight years, life has taught me some profound lessons. I’ve gained wisdom surrounding the topic of death. Usually, when I tell people my Mom is dead, I get a sympathetic response, followed by some awkward silence.

I love to break that silence and talk about death. It’s something we all experience, so why are we so hush around it?

My Mom was my best friend. I had more love in our 21 years together than most people get in a long lifetime. I focus on how lucky I am to have had such a close relationship with her. This intimacy has not ended because of her death.

From the moment she died, I had an innate knowing she was near me. Sounds farfetched, but I sensed that she was sticking by me. I kept hearing her voice telling me there was nowhere else she would want to be. And while half of me thought I was going crazy, the other half decided to believe it.

From here I maintained a connection with her, this helped me cope. I talk to her, write to her, and always remember to take a moment to love her.

The Hard Part

I had made a deal with myself to trust these feelings. Even though I couldn’t physically see my Mom, I committed to maintaining a connection to her spirit. But that was not the reality for the people around me.

The hardest part was navigating how western culture treats death.

She died in our home. Therefore the police treated it as a crime scene.

Here I was, moments after hearing my Mom was dead, being questioned by authorities. After a sleepless night with police officers guarding her bedroom, the coroner came and removed the body.

Next came the most challenging part: planning a funeral.

It felt like I was working a full-time job planning and partaking in the funeral. People from every corner of my Mom’s life lined up and expressed their sympathy. I appreciated the gestures, but nearly everyone had the same thing to say.

“I can’t believe she’s gone.”

It was a challenge to maintain my newfound belief that she wasn’t gone. Instead, she had transformed. After multiple services, I was depleted and seeing some severe faults in how my culture treated death.

The Easy Part

I’m not saying everyone is going to understand my experience. Still, I feel it’s worth sharing. If one person is inspired to look at death differently, it’s worth it.

I’m a pretty sensitive, psychic, and intuitive person. I can read vibes and get all the feels. Which meant connecting to her essence came naturally. It wasn’t a question. All I can say is that I knew she was there. It became easy for me to trust this. On Earth, I was her number one, why would it be different now?

I would dream about her. We’d talk, and she’d explain things to me. I’d wake feeling like I learned something and then I would integrate those lessons into my life.

People were shocked by my actions. Many people worried about me. I was the black sheep and was not responding in the usual way. I learned to trust my experience, regardless.

I remember being in grade 3, and our teacher told us that our parents live on through our genes. That stuck with me; it’s funny how life sets you up. My Mom and I look like twins; when I see my smile in the mirror, I feel like I am now smiling for both of us.

One day I told a friend how I experienced my Mom’s transition and that I still felt connected to her. He was a pretty logical guy, so I braced myself for some rebuttal. Instead, he said it makes sense because,

“Energy never dies; it only transforms.”

Realistic Not Spiritual

For years I considered myself to be spiritual, but now I think I am realistic. I’m intuitive and have had my fair share of spiritual experiences. I work as an astrologer and read star charts for a living. But after my friend put it in scientific terms, I realized that my beliefs aren’t wild, woo-woo, or out there; they make sense.

The Days of the Dead

This past January, I visited Mexico. As I walked through one of the cemeteries, I felt overcome with a sense of excitement. I wanted to splash colors, decorations, and celebrations around death. I didn’t want to eliminate all joy with blacks, greys, and sadness. I wanted to keep her alive.

“The days of the dead are truly a celebration of life. When children dance with caricatures of death, eat skull sugar molds and learn to respect that life is brief, they learn there is a circle to life and to not fear death and then are free to enjoy and appreciate every moment.”
— umn.edu

After learning about this tradition, I understood there are places worldwide that celebrate life while healing grief and loss.

Death is not easy, it hurts, is painful and can break our hearts. However, it’s a part of life on Earth and life still goes on. By trusting my feelings and opening my mind to alternative traditions around death, I was able to keep living after my mom died. My hope is that anyone reading this can give themselves the space to grieve, the room to heal and the hope to carry on.

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