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Expanding Acceptance: Minimizing the Myopia Around Death

On a sunny Friday morning in June of this year, I woke up to the news that my aunt had passed away the night before peacefully in her sleep. For two years, she had been talking about her impending death and had made peace with the fact that it was inevitable. In fact, she said that her life had been well lived she was looking forward to being on the other side with my uncle. In the past when other family members died, I went about my normal somber of depression for days, not eating or sleeping, then would eventually “snap out of it” coming to the realization that he or she was in a better place and my sadness was in vain.

But it was different this time. I knew that my aunt was ready to go and knew how much she had enjoyed her life. She was a jovial person who never let adversity bring her down no matter how bad things got. That was one of her best attributes. Her attitude about death was her tribute to that joviality. As a tribute to her, my evolution from depression to celebration was my way of embracing death in a whole new way; expanding my acceptance and minimizing the myopia around the sadness that comes when hearing the news of a loved one dying.

You may ask, “What do you mean when you speak of myopia around death. By the way, what is myopia?” Well, allow me to explain. According to Merriam-Webster, myopia is defined as having a “a lack of foresight or discernment: a narrow view of something." In the context of this definition, one might say that my point of view when it comes to the concept of death was narrow-minded because I always believed that I was supposed to be sad when hearing the news of someone’s death. Acting, in any other manner would be an insult to the event. Because of the close relationship that I had with my aunt, I never wanted to act in a way that would insult her life.But her perception and mindset about death expanded my horizons and gave me permission to embrace death in a whole new way. The expansion of my mindset invoked a freedom that I had never known. I have begun to see death as a celebration of life and that newfound perception has given me immense joy.

In a literal sense, myopia describes a condition of nearsightedness which--for all those who get nearsighted and farsightedness confused--means that objects are only visibly clear up close and are difficult to see at distances. Death myopia speaks to the nearsightedness that we have about what is appropriate and normal and end-of-life due to a lack of foresight and hesitancy to think about death as a "far out" concept. If we hesitate or avoid thinking about death when it is quite distant from us, we are then caught off-guard when death is suddenly in our face and lack the critical distance to question the ways we are expected to behave and the things we are expected to do.

I wrote this blog post as a tribute to anyone who was feeling the way I did about death and punishing yourself by thinking that honoring the dead means that you must feel sad. I feel unequivocal in my assertion that all who have passed on to the other side who want us to celebrate their lives in the way that I celebrated my aunt’s life. Our loved ones want us all to be happy for them and honor them in ways that would make them proud. In fact, that should be the new mantra for embracing death: CELEBRATING LIFE!!!

Jeannine Foster is a PhD candidate in Educational Technology and Online Learning at Regent University. She teaches Speech Communication at Tarrant County, Collin and Weatherford Colleges and also teaches for West Coast University. She recently published a textbook entitled "Speakeasy: The Secrets to Success in Public Speaking." In her spare time, she loves reading, listening to music, and dancing.
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