No amount of preparation beforehand will steel you completely from the emotional loss of someone close to you. Most Singaporeans will perish from some kind of terminal illness, which will be a typical story of how most modern death will play itself out locally.
In 2016, almost 30% of deaths are attributed to cancer. So in a typical cancer death, at least one-third of us will have some kind of limited timeframe before the talons of death descend upon us.
Though pre-empting death may help to deal with practical sort of issues, like how do we sort out funeral matters or distribution of assets, but time is not much of a factor when it comes to the experience of loss and bereavement. (Unless the death results in sudden and unexpected circumstances such as suicide or accident, which are different matters altogether).
In the world of feelings, the pain of grief strikes hard even if you took time to prepare yourself emotionally.
Simply because actual loss and anticipated loss are two separate thing.
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I will provide an analogy: let’s suppose I tell you that I can make the best chicken burger in the world. To inform you on your pending experience, I will provide the most vivid description of what you can expect from taking the first bite of my burger. I will also bring in the actual burger for you to touch, smell and observe it.
Then you took your first bite. Chomp.
Here’s the verdict, upon taking that bite, the experience in eating my burger will somehow cause you to learn something new about the burger, even if I have tried everything possible to get you to understand the experience beforehand.
What is happening?
As I invoke the idea of a chicken burger, your mind immediately tries to benchmark the closest approximate of your experience towards the best chicken burger you had ever consumed in your life thus far. Surely, a good burger has some common characteristic – probably not too oily, smells awesome or the degree of crispiness involved. But the point of consumption actually makes you learn more about the burger far more than any of these properties put together strangely.
Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash
What I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter how long you take to prepare yourself for the death of someone you love. Knowing the trajectory of the illness, witnessing physical shut down of the body or even spiritual justification on why the person is dying will not fully account for the complete experience of losing someone until the person is formally dead.
Not just any death – but death of that specific person. Because there is only one copy of that person in this world and how this person relates to you emotionally and socially. Hence, akin to having many chicken burgers in the world, the chicken burger I have made is but unique to mine alone.
And therefore the loss of your spouse, siblings or best friend is unique to you alone.
Broadly speaking, though others may lose their spouse, siblings or best friends as well but their experience will never be the same as yours, vice versa. But the journey of going through grieving, mourning and (hopefully) towards acceptance is that of the same general direction that we would have opportunity to encounter with regards to the phenomenon of bereavement.
Featured photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash