Death is the great leveller of the playing field of life.

The dimension we are living in is one designed for the purpose of expansion; and in this dimension, expansion is the byproduct of contrast.  Knowing that death awaits us all is likely the only thing that helps some of us learn humility and empathy. Without death, life would lose its meaning — they are the yin and yang of our existence, they are nothing without the other – the universe and everything in it are both constant and cyclical

The energy that we hold within us, comprises of belief systems, thoughts feelings, intentions and actions. When we become a silent witness to a client whose life force is weakening – it is interesting to see what personal wounds surface for those left behind. Some become emotional wrecks while others, supercharge and flex their ‘yang’ or ‘masculine dominant’ energies as a means of coping. 

‘Doing’ is generally favoured above ‘being’ and the grief process is somewhat suppressed by a flourish of intense activity including organizing, planning, researching and brainstorming. Kindness leads the way as the community rallies around to support the family. At this time, the soul is nourished, receptive ‘yin’ energy is restored and love is replenished.

Then there’s the funeral and the inevitable crushing feeling the next day when everything is so final. Tears flow, resistance is released and the reality of it all sets in. Realignment is part of the process and this sensitive time can only be successfully navigated when the energy is bought back into balance through rest and stillness.

As a carer-giver, in these situations, we often hover in the background and give the family space. We intuitively know when we are needed and we respectfully retreat when called to do so. We also have the opportunity to step out of the ‘leadership’ role in directing daily routine and acknowledge that the way forward is to simply follow someone’s else’s lead. 

I believe that this situation provided a turning point in my own life. Relinquishing control is a relatively new skill for someone who is being paid to be in control. The Yin (receiving) and Yang (giving) of communication were invaluable at this time as I learnt to balance ‘receiving’ (listening and understanding) with ‘giving’ (speaking and influencing)

“Listening to understand” enabled me to approach the relationship from a completely different perspective. It helped me connect, and establish a platform of trust. In these situations, it really is the golden key that opens the door to human relationships. With the spotlight on the other person, I was given the opportunity to listen within her frame of reference, as opposed to listening to respond based on my own reality and belief structures. 

This enabled me to drop into my heart and from this expanded state of awareness, I could not only listen to what was being said but what was not being said, in other words, her underlying feelings, emotions, and deepest needs. It looked something like this…

“There are too many people telling me what I need to do and making all sorts of suggestions – I just want to be independent, I don’t want to be a burden on my family, I want to be able to drive my car and do my own thing… 

It was only when I was asked, “what do you think I should do?” that I suddenly felt a shift – because  I had provided a safe space to talk she was now more ready to listen to me – it was the yearning for freedom that was tugging at her soul and she didn’t know where to start! She desperately wanted to coordinate her social calendar and live according to her own timeline – to transcend the noise around her and exercise her ‘free will”

As her current carer, respecting her wishes I decided to slowly get her physically and mentally stronger to be able to live on her own again. The next few weeks I actively withdrew – I became a helicopter carer and sensitively observed whether this ‘move’ would become a viable, realistic option.

Making her own tea in the morning, for example, was a baby step but a vital part of her journey to full independence. Each small ‘win’ was documented, evidence gathered and support offered until each activity was consistently repeated enough times to form a habit! Her confidence grew and she delighted in the progress she had made and the trajectory of her new reality.

I think that sometimes we forget the wisdom of those in our care – a generation who are rarely respected for their contributions to society. We are always too quick to finish off their sentences without giving them the freedom to express themselves. Physical incapacities are seen as rescue situations and interventions fast-tracked out of frustration and lack of patience. 

I have learnt that the biggest gift we can give anyone is the gift of being heard, after all, we are given two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen twice as much as we speak…