Thoughts on mourning

December 17, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Nature

News from home comes slowly and filtered here in China. I know only the basic facts about the shooting in Connecticut. I saw Obama’s first speech on it, but little more.

I don’t know much of what happened or how the nation is reacting to it, but I know people are dealing with death and grief.

In all my communications on the subject, I’ve found the most helpful this passage from the ancient book called the Zuangzi (spelled Chuang Tzu in the translation below) on the death of a loved one.

Chuang Tzu’s wife died. When Hui Tzu went to convey his condolences, he found Chuang Tzu sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a pot and singing. “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Hui Tzu. “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing – this is going too far, isn’t it?”

Chuang Tzu said, “Not at all. When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there’s been another change and she’s dead. It’s just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.”

“Now she’s going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about how things worked. So I stopped.”

— from this translation, with slight changes.

You can’t undo someone’s death. You can’t change what happened that led to it. You can’t change that everyone is going to die. I doubt you can change how you react to the death of a loved one in the moment.

You can choose how you let it affect you. You have to choose how you let it make you feel unless you want your emotions to blow with the breeze. This passage, to me, celebrates life while respecting the person who died.

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2 responses on “Thoughts on mourning

  1. Pingback: A mental model on disease and dying » Joshua Spodek

  2. Pingback: A friend my age, a married father of three, and his cancer - Joshua Spodek

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