Living headlong as we do, and must do, the reality of illness, aging and mortality is commonly experienced as a deep personal blow, and a shock. Regardless of our chronological age, these are major life transitions, which people often describe as “suddenly inhabiting an alternate reality.”
The gradual realization that these experiences, far from being alien, are built in from the start, often evokes depression, deep grief, and defenses against this hard truth. You may become so depressed that you foreclose on activities and pursuits that you are very well equipped to undertake. In other words, you commit pre-emptive psychic suicide. Or you may become obsessive and rigid, trying to control everything for fear that “letting go” means “losing it,” or certain death. Or you may become manic, in an attempt to cram in areas of your as-yet unlived life—as though we could.
Mourning the reality that all of our lives are finite, is profound and demanding grief work. Yet not undertaking it deprives us of the opportunity to heal deep old injuries, finish some of our conscious and unconscious unfinished business, and practice facing these mutually re-inforcing partners, life/death, with courage—literally, “heart.”