Death, Acceptance, and Grace: The Opportunity for the Reconciliation of the Shadow in Dying and Bereavement

The afternoon light was falling through the venetian blinds of the huge windows of an eighteen-bed ward where I sat at the bedside of Jeannie, a 92-year old woman who was dying.  Her family members, who had not visited her during her stay at the convalescent hospital, were standing uncomfortably around her. I understood their dilemma. As a volunteer with the Zen Hospice Project, I spent a lot of time trying to help bridge the sense of disconnection that seemed to settle in between family and friends as death approached those I was trying to serve. 

When a loved one is dying or has died, our defenses to all of the complicated aspects of our relationship with that person are often shaken. If we are lucky, we are less able to keep in place all the unconscious agreements with that person and we are afforded a time to explore those agreements and how they affect our ability to be honest with ourselves. To deepen this process, it can be helpful to use hypnosis, meditation or other altered state work because of their ability to further weaken the conscious defenses we have to death in order to more fully understand ourselves.

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