Coronavirus has forced all of us, overnight, to confront our mortality, says empowerment coach, Remy … [+]
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Lately, as you might imagine, all that coaching clients seem to want to talk about is coronavirus. What with children being told not to return to college until the fall, public gatherings cancelled and whole regions of the world on lock down, there’s plenty to find alarming. For many, the stomach-churning market-drops and talk of a global recession are what feel most frightening. But when it comes down to it, what we are really terrified of is dying.
The average life expectancy in the USA is 76 for men, and 81 for women. Yet, the fact that a human life is roughly 1000 months is something we nearly all choose to ignore. However inevitable, death is seen as something we pretend will only happen to other people.
Coronavirus has forced all of us, overnight, to confront our mortality. The World Health Organization estimated that the Corona virus will have a fatality rate of 3.4 percent, making death a lot harder to ignore. Even now it has been interesting to observe younger people attempt to put distance between themselves and death, with the idea that the virus will mostly kill the sick or elderly. Regardless, it is no longer something that will happen only to other people. I too could die.
When a trauma surfaces for us in adult life which reminds us of a traumatic experience we suppressed in childhood, our reaction tends to be that of the helpless child. It is no different with the whole subject of death. It has become much scarier and more traumatic for most of us because we have never been encouraged to explore our feelings around it. Most of us have never had the chance to see someone die, or to talk openly about our fears that we and our loved ones will die.
This is why, when, prompted by coronavirus, adult clients now speak to me about their fears around sickness and death, I find myself faced with a terrified five year-old, operated on in a strange hospital without their parents, or a desperate 9 year-old whose grandparent has just died. Because adults didn’t speak to us openly and honestly about dying and death when we were children, our response to it often remains frozen in time.
We can’t see that our individual response to news about the virus is hysterical. But, quite often it is. Our suppressed fears from childhood surface, and we don’t understand what’s occurring. “I understand that as a healthy 43 year old man, it’s extremely unlikely that I will die from coronavirus,” one client told me this week, “Yet ,I have been finding it hard to sleep, impossible to concentrate during the day. My thoughts are full of death.”
In response, I’ve designed a special coronavirus session to help people deal with mortality. Part of this session involves leaving childhood trauma around death in the past, and part of the work is around getting complete with whatever or whoever we are incomplete with now, so that if we were to die tomorrow, we would not feel burdened by regrets.
1. Find a time in your childhood when you experienced fear or confusion around death, dying or illness. I invite you to recall where you were and what was going on in their mind. Now, I encourage you as an adult to meet yourself as a traumatized child, to hold them, speak with them and comfort them. This is often a tearful exchange, where we get to understand both how much of our pain and confusion around death we have carried with us from childhood and how much stronger we have become through our adult experiences.
2. Now, I want to imagine that you’re 95 years old, sitting comfortably in a beautiful spot. You feel like your life has been a success. What was the one thing above all you experienced or accomplished that made your life a success? For your life to have been a total success, what else do you wish you’d said or done? This is a powerful way of getting in touch with whatever weight we are carrying. Some people leave this session to be with their children, others head straight out to start working on their personal fitness.
Coronavirus or not, the one thing we can be absolutely certain of is that we will die. Releasing our fears about dying, which include our suppressed past traumas, is a good way to get our reaction to the epidemic in perspective ,and start to living more fully from today.