Why Aren’t You Living Now? Don’t You Realize What’s Going to
Happen to You? Tragedy, Loss, Pain, Death?
Bob Baugher, Ph.D.
I know, I know—the title of this article is pretty raw. Most people respond to this question by saying something like this: “Yes, I know that terrible things could happen in my life—and some have. I am living now-so, leave me alone. You live your life and I’ll live mine.”
Just to be clear: It’s not my desire to force people to live their life in a certain way. My focus is to urge people to incorporate into their daily lives just a little more awareness of what can and will happen. This comes from my experience with thousands of people who found themselves in the middle of a trauma, getting a terminal diagnosis, or experiencing the excruciating grief that comes from the death of a loved one. What they say is, “When I look back on the way things used to be before this tragedy, I wish I had done more things to really live my life—but it’s too late. I wish I knew then what I know now.”
Talking about it might make it happen
One of the roadblocks to considering the possibility of tragedy hitting our life is the belief: “If I think about a terrible event happening in my life, it just might come to pass.” I tell students in my Death & Life class, “If I die during the course of this quarter, some people may say, ‘See, this man talked about death, loss, and grief—and then he died!’ Your response should be, ‘He has talked about death more than 40 years. If anyone should have died talking about death, he should have died a long time ago.’” Talking about a potential tragedy does not cause it to happen.
What I’m suggesting is that you sit with your loved ones and bring up the hard stuff by asking questions such as:
Which one of us, do you think, will die first?
If I die first, in what kind of healthy ways can you cope with your grief?
What important decisions do you need to make before you die?
If you died today, what would be your biggest regret?
What are you doing to really live your life?
Bring up these topics with your loved ones at least once a month. You could make the first day of every month a “Let’s talk about the hard stuff” Day.
Discussing difficult issues in this manner can help you appreciate what you have in your life at that very moment. It is clear that being grateful for what you have is a direct route to happiness. Talking about all that could befall you and your family can lead you right back to the fact that you are so very fortunate for the life you are now living. Being grateful daily for what you have is a very healthy way to live your life.
Being (Somewhat) Prepared
Bringing up the “what ifs” can better prepare you when tragedy hits. Knowing ahead of time your loved ones’ views on the hard issues can be helpful in planning for eventualities such as: organ donation, cremation vs. burial, funeral decisions, living will choices, charity preferences, and distribution of property to loved ones.
Peace of Mind
As you are well-aware, doing hard and painful work now can reduce the worry and concern around these hard issues. Sadly, most people wait to address these hard issues and find themselves regretting not taking the time to do so. As you come to the end of this article, I have a question for you: Will you put it down saying something like, “Yes, he makes several good points and I should get to it some day.” Or will you take steps to do something—anything now? Tragedies have a tendency to spring surprises at any moment. Don’t wait. Instead, take the first step by asking your loved one to sit down with you and answer a few questions. Once things get going, you’ll know you did the right thing. By doing this, it is a gift to you and the people who love you. Live. Live now. You’re going to die, so, get out there and do what you know you need to do. Trust me: You will never regret it.
Taking Risks Now
Some people play it safe all their lives. When they get to the end of their life and are asked, “Looking back on your life, what do you regret?” the most frequent answer is, “I should have taken more risks.” You are going to die. Do you want to get to the end of your life being one of these people? People who live great lives live by the motto, “I’d rather regret the things I did do rather than the things I didn’t do.” So, risk being a fool, risk looking stupid, and live your live so that you do not end up on your death bed saying, “I should have done more.”
Do it. Do it this week. Do it today. Do it now.