While our society tends to push the elderly and the dying aside, perhaps we need to reexamine our perspective on them, recognizing we have much we could learn from our elders and from those who are dying. One area we could learn much from is how we view our relationships with others. Do we take our relationships for granted, not seeing the importance until it is gone? The following article calls on people to reconsider how they approach relationships with others, as learned from the dying.
By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
Human beings are social creatures and the fact is, we need one another for support and survival in this world. Too often in the midst of our relationships one person says or does something that offends another and a spiral of hurt and grievance begins between the two.
People get so boiled over with anger inside and make a choice not to connect or make amends with the other because “they don’t deserve it.” What we’re missing in this picture is that this grudge, this boulder of anger we’re carrying within us, is actually hurting us!
I have seen it now a number of times. “What was the last thing I said to him before he went out the door?” she asked on the day her boyfriend was killed in a tragic accident.
We’re heard a resounding cry of this years ago during 9/11. Why does it take something so severe as death or threat of injury to bring us back to our senses to what is truly most important…our connections. The Now Effect opens up with a story of a successful business man lying on his deathbed turning to his doctor saying “I had it all wrong. It’s so simple, it’s about who you love and how you love and the rest of it, the rest of it never mattered.”
We could take some lessons from those who are in their last round of life.
When reflecting on this topic, it makes me think of the people in my own life who are still alive. Life can be so fragile and while at times we can all think that we’re all immortal and will live forever, reality informs us that we all come and go in this life. The truth is, we just don’t know when that will be.
In a past blog post, Ronald Pies, M.D. said, “having problems means being alive.” I’d like to add to that, “having problems with others means they are alive too.” Whether we are struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or illness, long before modern psychotherapy was even around, we came to understand that connection and support can be the most healing of all.
Sometimes we might hold a grudge or haven’t spoken to a loved one for quite a while over what seemed like an important dispute. We reactively dug our heels in the ground and decided to not speak to them. Meanwhile, we’re holding the discomfort inside; we’re the ones suffering. Learning to let go of a grudge is not condoning what the other person has done. It is simply saying, I don’t want to hold onto this anymore.
We all have a terminal condition, its called life and we can take the word of those who have lived it a bit more often: “It’s about who you love and how you love them.”
Author Stephen Levine asks us to consider “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say and why are you waiting?”
The present moment is really all we have, so who do you want to connect with today or this week. Make a list, even if it is only one person. What do you want to say and why are you waiting?
As always, please share your thoughts, questions and stories below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions at Work App, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join Elisha Goldstein’s Facebook Community to keep up with important information, tips and events.