Faith, Death, and Tough Questions

Written by Sarah


(I took this picture of the Grand Canyon while on my Sedona vacation.  Looking at this massive and awe-inspiring structure drummed up a lot of my feelings about faith, spirituality, life, and death.)

There’s something I think about a lot.  But I never want to talk about it outloud.  Something that sets my stomach churning in that I’m-about-to-vomit way.  My mind goes into hyperoverdrive.  I want to squeeze my eyes shut and pull myself into a ball and try not to move.

That thing?

That thing is death.

I just shuddered as I typed that.

Death.  Dying.  The deceased.

I don’t do well with death.

Maybe because I don’t have that much experience with death.  I’m one of those fortunate people who didn’t loose grandparents or other relatives or anyone else close to me until I was in my midtwenties.  I haven’t known sadness in that way.  And for that I am grateful.

And maybe I’m also wigged out because I’m a parent.  Of a young child.  A child that needs her mother for a long, long time to come.  And the thought of not being there for her?

That sets me into a panic attack.

If you’ve noticed anything about me while I’ve been a Season 6 blogger, it’s probably that I don’t do well with uncertainy.  I like things to be known.  What is known is far less intimidating and scary to me.  If I know something, well, then I know it.  I can prepare, think through the scenario, be at my best.

But the unknown?

There’s nothing I can do about that.

And that makes me uncomfortable.

To me, death is the ultimate unknown.  What happens?  Why?  How?

And while there are faiths and religions and ways of thinking that get at these questions, no one can say for sure.

That’s my other death hang up.  I don’t claim any sort of religion or faith as my own.  Probably because, to me, religion feels uncertain.  Intangible, if you will.  A believe-without-seeing thing that I don’t do well or willingly.

But I’m finding myself wanting some answers.  Something.  Anything that I can hold onto when I’m riding those waves of uncertainty.  Because while I plan and strategize and try to put my movements into neatly written boxes in my planner, I’m not in total control over what happens to me.

In a way, that feels kind of freeing.  If I am not in control of every little thing in my life, that frees me up.  Since the world is not relying on me to hold it up and carry all the worries to prevent bad things from happening, I can spend more time affecting change on what I can control.

I do this thing where I believe that if I worry just enough, nothing bad will happen.  It’s magical thinking.  And it doesn’t work.  So I can’t worry just enough about death so it won’t befall me or anyone I know.  It just makes me crazy.

So what can I do?

I’ve been reading some literature about mindfulness and radical acceptance.  Learning about Buddhism.  And thinking about how accepting life (and death) just as it is (messy, exciting, unknown) could be the path to freedom.

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