Death, the repressed theme

Italian psychoanalyst Luigi Zoja wrote in one of his books that death is the most repressed theme of the current century (he wrote this late in the last century), as sex was the most repressed theme of the former century. I was struck by this when I read it many years ago, and since then have watched and observed the truth whereof he speaks.

My friend who just lost her husband experienced an utter and irrevocable transformation of consciousness in one day. Nothing in our lives prepares us well for this, nor is our collective life set up to make space for such an event. Many former and present cultures do this far better than our own. If Nazarita had broken her foot, she could get paid leave from work. With a broken heart and shattered psyche, there is nothing in place in the world of business to account for that such an ordeal requires. There is little to no acknowledgement of it as anything real.

I won’t rant about this aspect as much as I am tempted to. I want to comment briefly only on the profound nature of what I am witnessing with her. She is an extraordinarily professional, competent, talented and artistic woman with a practical nature, who works a high- stress, high design, high powered job. Since her husband John died last week, the last thing she can imagine doing right now is moving at the pace of just the normal world around her, much less at that velocity of her workplace. People rush around her in stores or in traffic while she is standing still, if not literally then definitely metaphorically. What is the point of this pace?,she wonders. Nazarita is fastidious in keeping her home, but says now she likes it when she sees the spiders making their webs, especially around her front door. She thanks them and feels that they are protecting her, their webs will keep bad things from coming in. While in the house she wears a shirt from John’s closet across one shoulder and buries her nose in it while thinking or listening. She speaks about the most simple things of life with utterly transformed perspectives, straight from the heart, like a sage. Her wit is as intact as ever, and we have laughed heartily, yet the movement goes quickly from there into moods of sincere reflection and inquiry.

You can get a three-day reprieve from work so you can snap out of it. She looks at me in disbelief. In three days you haven’t even begun! I feel there is needed collective imagination to be stimulated and applied that might help bring humanity, intelligence, consciousness and deep appreciation for what death is and the processes necessary to honor it’s place in life. I am watching and learning, and hoping to help more in this.

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One Response to “Death, the repressed theme”

  1. Joy Parker Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. After my first three-day grieving ritual with Sobonfu and Malidoma Some all those years ago when they were a couple, and the grieving rituals I’ve participated in since, I’ve seen that this culture hurries on and does not grieve its losses. Death, as you say, is ignored. No one knows how to talk to a person who has just suffered a loss of that magnitude, let alone comfort them or behave in a supportive manner toward them.

    Perhaps this is something that can become a chapter in your book? You have mentioned many things that our culture is blind to in this blog. Perhaps you can help people to open their eyes to things around them, the miracles that we miss, the things in our culture that blind us, bind us, and keep us from fully experiencing life.

    I’m glad you can be there with your friend. I don’t think people really understand the power of that sort of “presence.” It reminds me of the time I was heroically overcoming cancer and learning my spiritual lessons and then my scan at the end of April showed no more cancer whatsoever in my body. After a month of so I began to fall apart with fear and dread and aftershock. I admitted to my friends that I was tired of being a fucking hero and that I needed help. My friend Isabelle called immediately and said she could come down the next morning and stay with me as long as I needed her, until I felt better.

    Your willingness to stay with your friend and use your gifts of understanding and compassion to help her begin to process this loss and comfort her is one of the kindest and best things you could ever do for someone.

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