The lessons my love of books taught me about grief

When I was 18, the fear of losing my parents came over me. The terror subsided when I realized it would be much harder for them to lose a child. Eighteen years later, I have faced harsh reality from a broader and calmer perspective.

Growing up, my mom lent me all of her fiction, self-help, and non-fiction books. When I received the news of my father’s death, at the beginning of 2021, I looked into all these books. They were a mainstay in keeping me sane during a pandemic that had claimed so many lives, including Dad’s.

I recently saw an interview with Isabel Allende where she talked about her latest book, her marriage at 77 and the death of her daughter. She is definitely a woman of strength, courage and determination. Through fiction she showed me how natural it is to live with spirits, and through non-fiction she taught me that you can also recover from the greatest pain, because life goes on – but not in the same way.

It is interesting to see how everything around us shapes us over the years. The transformation never stops, and little by little we find the paths that identify more with who we are and who we want to be. The books allowed me to know myself, to have empathy, resilience and to understand others. It doesn’t matter if it’s a non-fiction story or fictional characters, we can always learn something from these pages.

We gradually find the paths that identify more with who we are and who we want to be

I have seen others endure the loss of a loved one with such pain that it completely paralyzes their lives. I didn’t want to experience my father’s death that way. Because of this, I opened up to grief and what it could mean, but from a conscious position.

Author Vladimir Burdman says, “Human beings have a fear of death, it’s a visceral fear, a very great fear of leaving this world and leaving their physical body.”

This phobia also extends to our loved ones, “even if their life is neither pleasant nor happy”. We seem to choose to be afraid of death more often than to live fully.

man reading a book

Walking down a street of regrets won’t bring dad back. He will always be present through memories, teachings and anecdotes. His energy just changed. “As we leave, we receive an elevation in our spiritual evolution,” comments author Maria Rowan in her book Whispers of a heart from the other side.

My dad wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t the best or the worst. He was human and he taught me to be human. He was the kind of father I needed: a present in my life, who supported me every step of the way and gave me love. His last lesson was to let him go. While he was hospitalized, I decided to let go and respect his life and death process.

In 2020, I remembered Louise Hay’s book on gratitude and started being grateful for the little things in my life. I felt liberated. The practice has helped me to start 2021 and overcome difficult challenges. Gratitude has helped me realize that I am privileged and not a victim. I was able to take advantage of my father for a while; many people are not so lucky.

Gratitude showed me that we shouldn’t look for explanations in death, because there are none, the whys hurt us more. During this time, the books on reincarnation gave me the hope I needed to truly believe that something is beyond our understanding. Viewing the cycle of life with positivity helped me to think that there is no punishment, suffering or end. All the horror is in our minds, and we must learn to master it, to make it work in our favor.

This research in the books is linked to the belief that death comes at the right time. Not before, not after. My father, as a doctor, helped save many lives, but he also knew that in some cases there was nothing more he could do. We can’t obsess, cling, and hurt others because we want to stay by their side forever.

If the world we want to see is chaotic, painful and evil, that is what we will experience. For many of us, it’s an unfinished business to learn: our reality and how we view life and death is up to us, as Brian Weiss explains in his book miracles exist“He had to learn that the perception of life as a struggle was only an assumption…life is not just pain and suffering.”

Books, whatever their genre, have taught me about human nature. We all go through dark times, but the reality will largely depend on the perspective from which we see the world and the attitude with which we face challenges. In the end, even the Little Prince himself faced death to return to his planet. Although he was scared, he taught us this last lesson, and so many others.

Images: NappyStock and Annelies Geneyn

About Herbert L. Leonard

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