My grandfather has lived a long life but is having problems letting go of the body. He is filled with fear and I try to ease him by talking to him and reading to him. I have shared my thoughts with him on ego, purusha and prakruti. He’s approaching the end and is in great pain but cannot let go. He told me a couple of days ago that he does not want to go. Is there some advice you may have for me to help him? Maybe a mantra or prayer or reading that I can share with him? The death of my grandmother three years ago was very graceful and peaceful. She let go without a problem and he is just the opposite. He told me in the past that he believes in reincarnation, but his attachment to this material world is strong.
When someone we love is dying, it is a very painful experience for us to let go of them…and for them to let go of us and everyone else that they have loved.
Often times it is too painful for us to watch our loved one die, and so we want them to hurry up and leave their body because we can’t watch someone we love suffer in pain. But, we have to honor their experience. The body has its own intelligence; beyond what we think in our emotional mind about how the dying process should go. If your grandfather’s dying process is going too slow for you, then introspect about what is the rush? He himself said he is not ready to go. So, who wants him to die more quickly? You or him? You, because you can’t stand the pain? If it is him, then he would have died already. As you noted, each person’s dying process is unique, as unique as each person’s life. So your grandmother died more peacefully. But, try not to compare your grandfather to her. Instead, honor his process for what it is. The best thing you can do is to just be present with him in his process, without trying to expedite it in any way. This is a good exercise in awareness. Just watch your mind as you sit with him. Watch your breath. Be with yourself. Be with him. Nothing to do other than to be. Because that is the only place where love actually is. In the present moment. Most people are not able to really do this with their loved ones in the process of dying, but it is one of the best meditations for the heart. Because then you see all of your expectations, all of your attachments, all of your memories about the past with this person, your fears about the future without them. Let that all go. Let go also of your theoretical understanding of the ahankara, the mind, etc. Just stay present with his breath. And your own. A dying person also lets go when you have let go. So it is important to tell him that you love him and that you will be okay when he goes. Tell him that it is okay for him to go when he is ready. Also, ask him if there is anybody whom he didn’t get to say goodbye to yet? Sometimes the dying hold on in order to say goodbye to a loved one whom they have either lost touch with, or are on bad terms with. So check for that. And, if you can assist him in saying goodbye to that person, that will help him let to go.
But if you still desire to have a dialogue with him about life and death, you can ask him these questions: Who will die? You or the body? If it is only the body, then nothing to fear because “you ” will survive. If it is “you’ who will die, then nothing to fear because you won’t know that you died. Ask him the source of his fear and then analyze it.
Fear is because of attachment. In this material world we become separated with everything around us except ourselves, but we don’t realize that because we do not know our self. So, you can try to help him realize this. However, it is very difficult to talk to a dying person because he is not in a normal state of mind. These are lessons to learn when you are healthy and your mind is functioning properly. So in one way you can thank your grandfather for helping you to learn these lessons and apply them to your own self. Because once you realize these points yourself, you will not experience difficulty with your loved ones passing. You will be situated within your own self, experiencing the bliss of your own being and honoring others process of shedding their bodies, without trying to change it in any way. You will realize that nature has its own perfection that you are a part of, and you will be at peace with her processes, allowing them to unfold in their own time and in their own way.
Here is a technique to help you to be present and witness your grandfathers dying process.
- Sit by your grandfather’s bedside. Before engaging with him, use rose or lavender pure essential oil to calm your mind and bring you into the present moment. Put a few drops into the palms of your hands and cup your hands over your nose. Take 3 deep belly breaths. Inhale and relax into your breath. Let your shoulders drop. Sit back on the chair and shut your eyes. Repeat deep breathing of the essential oil. Just breathe. Continue like this for two minutes.
- Play some relaxing music. Something you know he likes. The sense of sound is the last sense to go when a person is dying, so even if he seems non-responsive, he can still hear you.
- Once you are feeling the effects of the deep breathing, and music, approach your grandfather. But do not speak to him. If he is conscious and can look at you, then hold his hand (both hands if possible). Feel the connection of your touch. Look into his eyes, and hold your gaze. Just look. Do not fill the air with any words. Just look into his eyes and let yourself feel your connection to your grandfather. Do not let your mind do its normal thing which is to create distance from your heart to his by analyzing, thinking, planning. Just be with him in this moment. Hold your gaze for one minute if possible. If he is not able to open his eyes, then just hold his hands and feel your connection to him through the sense of touch.
- Continue to hold your gaze. If this is not possible continue to hold his hand(s). Try to synch your breath with his. Watch to see his chest or belly moving up and down, and then match yours to his. Depending on the stage of dying he is in, his breath may be erratic – short, shallow breaths. Then no breath at all. Then gasping. If this is the case, then do not synch your breath to his. Maintain your deep belly breaths. Stay calm and focused on your breaths. Sometimes your deep belly breaths can calm his. And even though he may not seem present, his breath can change and synch with yours.
- Let yourself be with your feelings. Do not try to hide them or fade them or fix them. If you feel angry, this is a normal part of the process. Let yourself feel the anger. Just be with it, as you are with your breath. If you feel sad, let your tears flow. If you feel fearful yourself, then acknowledge that raw emotion that we all have within us when it comes to dying.
- Use your voice as a vehicle for your love. Tell him in a soft voice, with a tender heart how much you love him. Research has been done by experts in the field of death and dying that there are 4 main things that people who are dying need to hear in order to let go. If you like, you can write him a letter and read it to him, covering these 4 main points. The letter does not have to be lengthy, just as long as you cover these 4 points clearly:
- Thank you. Thank your grandfather for what he did for you in his life. The more specific you can be the better. Just saying that he was great is too general. It is much more appealing for him to hear how you appreciated the time he taught you how to ride a bike, for example:
- Please Forgive Me. Ask him for forgiveness for those things which you feel guilty or bad about in your relationship with him. For example, “Grandfather, please forgive me for not spending enough time with you. Please forgive me for judging you and your dying process, and for not honoring that you lived in your own unique way, and so also you will die in your own unique way.
- I Forgive You. Tell your grandfather the things that you forgive him for doing. You do not have to forgive him for things that you are not able to forgive him for. Be genuine in your forgiving. For example, “I forgive you for being harsh to my husband. I can understand now that you were just trying to protect me.
- I Love You. Tell your grandfather that you love him, and specifically what you love about him. For example, “I love how you so stubbornly fought your points. I love how you played so joyfully with my kids.”