Those who are suicidal, in the vast majority of circumstances have considered their own death not just as a one-off, quick thought just before the act, but over and over again. They may reach the stage where they begin to experience anticipatory grief concerning themselves. It may then become a foregone conclusion that they must die. In the book ‘Dying, Death and Bereavement’, Lewis R. Aiken writes “death row inmates ‘think intensively about themselves and what it will be like when they are dead. Knowing that one is about to die results in …focusing on the self to such an extent that the person literally begins to mourn or grieve for himself.”[Schneidman, 1980c]
Every now and then our life will be interrupted by thoughts of death. There are those who are faced to deal with death more than others. They may deal with the dying and the dead on a daily business such as doctors and healthcare workers, fire-fighters, paramedics, funeral directors and pathologists and priests. Although they visit death in their minds, they should never linger there. Ironically, for most of these occupations, the focus is on preserving life, recovering life and health, and where that fails ensuring that the correct physical, legal and spiritual procedures are met to prepare the dead for burial, cremation and the afterlife.
Ultimately, life is short and for most of us comes to soon. We must focus on life for life is for the living. The down-hearted, grieving and sick can be helped by loved ones and well-wishers by re-directing their attention to the business of living. Where motivation is lacking to do so, then it may be necessary to go through the motions of getting out of bed, planning a special outing or event. We all need something to look forward to. The ultimate anticipation is the afterlife which is a never-ending state whereas all earthly sources of anticipation will ultimately come and go.
How can we make the mental adjustment to press on with living when our hopes have been dashed, we are grieving the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship. Here are some suggestions:
- Remember that your loved one would want you to carry on and be happy
- We do not fail until we stop trying
- Manual labour which is repetitive such as weeding the garden, mopping the floor, polishing the silver, washing the car can act in a therapeutic way to take our attention off ourselves as well as impart a sense of achievement.
- You may not think your life is worth living for yourself but you can make a world of difference to the life of someone else in need. Why not volunteer your time, skills to a charity.