Death Work

I was in conversation with a friend recently when she used the term ‘death work’, which stayed in my mind for some time afterward and made me ponder something.   Most practitioners who choose to work in some capacity in the end of life would no doubt think about this from a professional stance, but what about our own individual and personal death work?  While we work with others, do we also work with ourselves?

How can we contextualise death work?  Is it possible to arrive at a broad and agreed understanding, or is it unique to the individual and determined by a myriad of factors, such as life experiences, world view, cultural and social experiences, and spiritual and religious experiences or lack thereof?   What does it mean to undertake our own death work? And, if we do, why?

I was told many, many years ago that when we die all we take with us is what we’ve made of ourselves, not wealth, not status, nothing, but that.  This implied that effort was required to make something of ourselves. How do we do this, and to what end?  What is it that we ‘make’?  And what kind of effort is required?

It seems to me that if we are going to change ourselves then we need to change how we think about ourselves and how we think about truth, meaning and value.  Furthermore, it also seems to me that what we are and what we believe ourselves to be are quite literally worlds apart.  Change of mind often begins with a new idea and can replace old and worn-out attitudes, this is important because an unchanged mind cannot have a vision of its’ higher possibilities.

For the most part Science takes a reductionist view of human destiny, rendering it lifeless and meaningless and sees no possibility of human survival after death, but this is where our responsibility for our death work comes to life.  This inner work is characterised by an ongoing struggle towards consciousness and integration, and to awakening consciously to the spiritual foundation of reality and to our greater cosmic purpose.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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