Supporting as Death Draws Near

At some point in life, many of us are called upon to support a dying family member, friend, or client. It is essential to recognize that during such times, the more knowledge we have about how to be helpful, the more successful our efforts will be. In this article, I will outline important points to consider as you prepare for this responsibility. Understanding these will ensure that the support you give is of great value to the dying person, and personally rewarding for you.

1) Examine attitude and feelings

Prior to being with someone who is dying, it is essential to examine our thoughts and attitudes about dying and death in general, and to then review how we feel about this specific upcoming death. Pondering what it would be like to say goodbye to everyone and everything that is of value and meaning to us can help us get in touch with some of our deepest feelings. This is especially important to consider if the person who is dying is about our age, the age of our partner, or the age of our children, or if their life circumstances are very similar to our own. It is crucial to recognize and acknowledge the realness of our feelings, rather than attempting to deny or ignore them. Death affects us and we get in trouble if we think it does not. When feelings are ignored, they tend to sneak out when we least expect them to; causing the situation to then become more about us, than about meeting the emotional and soulful needs of the other.

2) Acknowledge what dying people want

Dying creates numerous changes in all aspects of life. The more control we have over any situation, especially during times of change and uncertainty, the better we cope and adjust. It is important to allow the dying person as much control as possible. One way to do this is by frequently asking what the person wants, and from whom it is wanted. Fulfilling these requests may then require you to advocate on the dying person’s behalf; even to the point of meeting with the Chairman of the Board for something as simple as getting permission for the person’s Border Collie to be at the death bed.

3) Recognize the difference between pain and suffering

When pain is unmanageable, despite narcotic usage, the source of the suffering may be deeply rooted in unresolved emotional or spiritual concerns. As dying people review their lives, there is a need to bring peaceful closure to all significant relationships. Unresolved emotional and soulful issues, such as a need to explain one’s point of view related to a past incident, or the need to forgive or to seek forgiveness are often the sources of the suffering. Alleviating this suffering can happen by inquiring about a need to call a specific person to the bedside.

4) Support the Life Review

Erik Erikson described the Life Review as a process of examining one’s life to determine if the Gods are pleased. Dying persons become deeply engaged in this soulful process to determine where they did the best they could have, and where they felt the need to make amends. The Life Review can be stimulated by visits, music, photographs or through the process of reminiscing. Dying people value “Remember When” narratives of our positive experiences with them.

Every life is made of positive and difficult events. When the life is being reviewed, the seemingly insurmountable difficulties can saturate consciousness and the person can become fixated on them. When the dying person seems anxious or despairing, it is therapeutic to invite the relating of the most challenging times. As the person does so, help them explore any positive outcomes that may have resulted from each of the difficult events. A circular form of questioning works well to achieve this. “And then what happened?” can be asked following the first report of the difficult event, and asked again following each description of the outcomes that followed. In doing so, you help the person to more readily see any silver linings behind the cloud that moments earlier, appeared to be extremely dark and impenetrable.

Our goal in assisting with the Life Review is to help the dying person see their life as a meaningful whole, yes even with difficulties; but also with many positive circumstances. By aiding the movement of despairing moments into more positive ones, we help the person to die in integrity and with dignity.


©Jane A. Simington PhD

Nurturing Seeds of Optimism and Hope

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

As the days became longer and the cold of winter was giving way to the warmth of spring, as a child I could sense the optimism and hope being shared by my parents as they discussed their plans for the seeding of spring crops and gardens. Signs of new life abounded around my farm home and the potential for the gains my family could acquire if that new life was nurtured and properly cared for, while covert, were palpable.

Those childhood days have imprinted correlations in my mind between spring, new beginnings and hope. Our spring celebrations and family meals offered a sacred space for giving thanks and for inward visioning of the promises held for the coming season.

My sacred and treasured childhood memories of the holiness of spring are in many ways comparable to the teachings which since ancient times have surrounded the Spring Equinox. The Spring Equinox, because of its association with light and new growth, was in ancient times, also known as Ostara, This title derived from the name of the Celtic Goddess of fertility and springtime. She was celebrated during the Spring Equinox as the balance between darkness and light and as the bringer of increased light. Many other cultures and traditions including Christian, Orthodox and Pagan have also marked this powerful turn of the seasonal wheel with symbolism of resurrection and rebirth.

The sun’s journey throughout the course of the year holds strong symbolism to our own journey. The Spring Equinox is positioned upon a point of balance, with one side of the equinox representing the dark half of the year and our struggles with the dark and death aspects of ourselves. The other side of the equinox represents the light half of the year and our possibilities for rebirth and new beginnings.

Spring is for me a time to celebrate the resurrection of what went beneath the earth at the Winter Solstice, both real and metaphorically; and to joyfully anticipate the new life that is appearing in field and womb. It is a time of new beginnings, of action, of saying goodbye to the old, and of creating sacred spaces to hold the new seeds we plant and, when nurtured and properly cared for, will produce abundant fruit.

Earth teach me, to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me, regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.
~ William Alexander

From Inner Peace to World Peace

© Jane A. Simington PhD.



The month of November calls us to gratefully reflect on the freedoms we are privileged to experience as a result of sacrifices made by the family members who, as veterans, served our countries in the maintenance of peace and liberty. Yet despite their sacrifices, the search for peace continues among nations, within families, between individuals, and within the emotions and spirits of the individuals who fought for our freedoms.

My recent involvement with a colleague’s family member, who had completed his course of duties in a war zone and received honors for his services, amplified my knowing that there are really no winners in war! As we dialogued, I heard the intense pain this man was experiencing. He spoke of the guilt he felt about being a part of what he had been personally involved in, as well as from what he had witnessed and heard about from his colleagues. He described feeling judged and shunned, especially by those who had seen him as a hero, for not being able to “just get over it,” and how their inattentiveness to his need to voice his remorse added to his sense of shame.

His dialogue revealed an incremental soul searching examination of every event, every word he had spoken, every command he had received or given, and every action he had taken or not taken. He wept when I asked if this intense search was a search for answers, or was it a search for the parts of him that had remained at the scenes of the traumatic events he had experienced and witnessed.


Indigenous peoples from around the world hold a common belief that the soul pain experienced at the time of a traumatic event can cause soul parts to fracture off and remain within the energy of that time and place. As I listened to his soul pain and heard his soul-longing for wholeness, I felt extreme gratefulness to have the knowledge and skills to help him. And while it was not without intense emotion that he reclaimed those parts of himself that had remained as if frozen at those numerous soul fracturing events, it was with incredible joy that I witnessed his look of anguish dissolve into one of deep peace and stillness as he reintegrated his fractured soul parts.


As we move into November and ponder ways to thank and honor our veterans let us be mindful of the value in acknowledging their personhood. Let us recognize that perhaps the best way to honor, especially those veterans who are family members, is to listen to them with open minds and hearts, and remaining ever aware of how the horrors of war can damage a human psyche. Even though listening to their narratives may be difficult for it can stir our own unresolved pain, their need to reexamine, in order to heal the horrors they experienced, may be great. When we are able to listen and respond at the depth they require, we do our part in helping them find inner peace and thus one person at a time, we add to a collective movement toward world peace.

Autumn Harvest Stimulates Life Review

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. September, 2016

In many cultures of the northern hemisphere, the September equinox is the official announcement of autumn. In Greek mythology, autumn is associated with when the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to be with her husband Hades. It was supposedly a good time to enact rituals to invoke protection and security as well as to reflect on successes or failures from the previous months.


As I gather the last produce from my summer garden I reflect on how each September, when I ponder the successes and failures of what I have planted in the spring, I am drawn inward, there to consider the fruitfulness of my personal and professional efforts in moving me toward the fulfillment of my life’s purpose. As I mull over how the seasonal changes in my garden metaphorically prompt my own seasonal life review, I recall that Erickson1 described the two parts of a life review: as a soulful attempt to examine and bless those aspects of life that we feel satisfied with, and as a soulful urging to alter any circumstances that need changing so that soul growth can continue into our next season.

While my annual life review is stimulated by the final harvest from my garden, reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, can be activated by many things including music, photographs or visits. These things naturally stir memories and because of that, each can be used in a therapeutic way.

For a time I was a nursing director in a long term care facility. I like to sing, and I often sang for the residents. Their selection of songs would almost always bring a number of them to tears. Because I was intentionally using song as a therapeutic way to stimulate memories, I would later spend time with each teary-eyed resident, exploring the memories that had surfaced for them as I sang. Together we re-enjoyed happy memories and in most cases, all that was needed to release the emotional load attached to a difficult memory, was for the resident to know they were being compassionately cared about and supported in their attempts to come to terms with their feelings.2

This experience guided my response to my husband’s questions about how to best help his dying mother. As he left to be with her, I encouraged him to help his mother recall the good times that he and she had shared throughout his lifetime. He later reported that even though she was only semi-conscious, as he spoke and caressed her, a tear would roll down her cheek, or she would frequently smile and nod as he related each, “Remember When Mom” detail. He described that as he spoke to his mother he could hear soft sobbing in the background. When he turned to investigate, he recognized that the three other women in his mother’s ward were also listening to what he was relating. Were they perhaps vicariously receiving and delighting in the love he was conveying? Or, were they perhaps wishing that their own sons would be by their bedsides helping them with their own “Remember When Mom” narratives?

As we enter the autumn season, is it time for you to also turn inward, there to examine how the seeds you have planted have ripened? Is it time for you to ponder how the harvest you reap will support you on your next great movement forward? Or is it time to offer “Remember When” details to a loved one, and thus assist them to bring a peaceful closure to their life in anticipation of their next great movement forward? Whatever this autumn equinox stirs within you, may it aid you in harvesting bushels of ripe fruit from the good seeds you have planted in the spring of this year and in the springs and early summers of your entire lifetime.

Erickson, E. H. 1963. Childhood and Society, 2nd edition. New York: WW Norton & Co.
Simington, J. A. 2013. Through Soul’s Eyes: Reinventing a Life of Joy and Promise. Taking Flight Books, Edmonton, AB.

As Life Ended He Knew He Had Done the Best He Could

Jane A. Simington

Developmental theorist Eric Erickson1 described our final developmental task as being the need to review our lifeto determine if the gods are pleased. In doing a life review, we sort through the various aspects of our life and conclude either with believing we have done the best we could, or determining there are things we need to make right within our self or in our relationships.

Some time ago, my husband called me for help with the frightening visions that were being experienced by his dying father. As my father-in-law’s life was drawing to a close he began having visions of uniformed soldiers walking around his bed. Each time he described the experiences, he concluded these were the soldiers killed during WWII battles because of the orders he, as their commander, had given.
My father-in-law described that over the years he had often thought about these men, wondered how their families managed their grief and how they had survived without the son, husband or father who had been killed. He mentioned that he had often pondered what the dying soldiers thoughts were of him. Had they blamed him? Had they cursed him? As he reviewed this time of his life and these circumstances, he indicated that over the years, and especially now as he was examining the various aspects of his life, he thought a lot about some of the choices he felt were required of him during the war years.

As my husband and I listened to his testimony, I became aware it was likely that my father-in-law’s feelings about his fears and regrets had become embodied. Embodiment of emotion is not uncommon both during dying and during grief. Known as personification, it is a process in which inanimate abstractions or feelings become endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.
Acknowledging that part of bringing a satisfactory closure to his life required allowing him to share these deep emotions, and to describe in more detail some of the life events he was now reviewing, his son and I listened attentively.
Over the next days we became aware that in relating some of his experiences, most of which he had rarely spoken of, the visions of the soldiers moving around his bed seemed to lessen and become less terrifying for him. Following one such vision, when he described the uniformed figures and how threaten he felt by them, I asked if it was possible these were soldiers from the unit he had commanded, and that they were coming to welcome him to the other side where he would again be in comradeship with them? My father-in-law was able to accept this reframing of his visions, and through it, alter his own interpretation.

My father-in-law’s remaining days appeared to be peaceful, and since he never again spoke of the soldiers, my husband concluded his father had completed reviewing that aspect of his life and was now able to rest peacefully believing he had done the best he could.

Reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, is activated by many things including visits, photographs and song. These things naturally stir memories that when stirred can be explored. Happy memories can be re-lived and re-enjoyed, and ways can be found to release the emotional load attached to the difficult ones. In many cases, it is the sharing of a difficult memory with a trusted person that allows for the release of the emotion attached to that memory.

Robin Butler2 described life review as a human need to balance the good in life against the negative. The goal, when assisting another during life review, is to have the person recognize that while their life was made up of both positive and less than positive events, the good outweighed the negative. Circular questions, such as “Tell me what happened after that,” followed by “And then what happened?” and again followed by “And then what happened?” are valuable when helping the person acknowledge the positive outcomes that flowed from what was initially viewed as a negative experience.
It is also important to help a person who is examining past choices recognize we often judge past events based on today’s standards. There is great value in helping the person view events within the context of the circumstances when their choices were made, and then to assist in helping to reframe perceptions of those past circumstances so the person is able to acknowledge that the best possible choices were made.


1).Erickson, E. H. Childhood and Society. New York: WW Norton.
2).Butler, R. N. Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches. . St. Louis: Mosby.

Autumn Gifts: Lessons of Death and Rebirth

©Jane A. Simington, PhD.

The gardens have lost their freshness and here and there along the path red and gold leaves show themselves, like the silver hairs that now appear among my blond ones. The autumnal changes that awaken the cyclic rhythm within my own life cause me to once again reflect on how the shadow of summer’s death turns me inward, tearing away the veil revealing all that is now a part of the past.

autumn leaves

My son died in autumn. He had been in the springtime of his life. I will never see his abilities in their summer or autumn seasons. Watching the gathering of the field grains reminds me of the many years of etching my sorrow into the prairie paths. Walking those same paths today I am able to acknowledge the lessons of death and rebirth revealed in the seasonal changes of nature. I have learned to gratefully appreciate the splendor of the autumn fields, the meadow, and the lake, for their numerous tales of the continuing process of life. Over the years their encouraging whispers of perennial rebirth have reminded me that life goes on despite visible signs of death.

While the awareness of autumnal decline holds a strange mystery which adds to the gravity of my moods, I believe that autumn offers opportunities for life review and reverie that only a backward glance can provide. The season allows us to take advantage of the gifts wedged between summer’s hectic beauty and winter’s harsh decline, and in so doing can make us more able to truly focus on and appreciate the richness of our personal harvest.

Wind and the Seasonal Changes of Life

 ©Jane A. Simington PHD, September, 2014

As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;

And the place thereof shall know it no more.

– Psalms ciii:15-16

Early this day, as I stood to welcome the sun, I was acutely aware that the whispering breezes were announcing “change.” I lingered to identify from which direction it came. I believe that Spirit rides on the wind and the message Spirit brings depends upon the direction from which the winds blow. This morning, the winds of the West announced that one season was ending and a new was about to begin. I pondered how, during my career as a nurse, I was so aware that when the Wind of Spirit ceased to blow, one way of being had ended and a new way was about to begin.

Autumn trees by Jane's lake

The following information and strategies has assisted many caregivers who choose to help the dying free up their Spirits, so when they cease to breathe, their breath is freed from its restless tides to rise and seek God unencumbered.

1) Recognize the three stages of dying.

Outward focused: The person continues to be interested in the outside world, especially in anything related to their family. Visits and conversations about present events are still desired.

Inward focused: The dying person is reviewing every aspect of life to determine what yet needs to be said and done. During this stage it is helpful to share “remember when” stories. Describing shared experiences can help the person feel a sense of satisfaction with the aspects of their life being reviewed. During this stage, the dying person finds the radio and television annoying for these “noises” distract from, and interfere with, the important task of reviewing life with the goal of bringing a peaceful closure to relationships.

Future focus: The person who is close to death is focused almost solely on the afterlife. During this stage many have dreams of a spiritual nature, and visitations from loved ones who have already crossed-over. Listening respectfully, with an open mind and heart, to anything the dying person chooses to share about such experiences is of great value to the dying person as well as to the listener. Being gifted with sacred stories can alter life in many positive ways.

2) Recognize the difference between pain and suffering.

Both from a clinical and research base, it is recognized that suffering is more than physical pain. When the dying person’s spiritual, emotional and relational concerns have been addressed they can relax and focus on what is of immediate importance, which is to bring peaceful closure to this life and move toward the next. When there is pain that is uncontrollable, even with medication, often the source of the suffering is a need to forgive or be forgiven. A question that can be helpful during such times is: “What do you want/need and from whom do you want/need it?

3) Use the Hand- Heart Energetic Connection –

A loved one can give a lot of energetic support to the Spirit of a dying person by using this Therapeutic Touch technique. To do so, hold the dying person’s right hand with your left hand and place your right hand in the middle of his or her chest. Then using your breath to draw on the light and love energy from above, bring this energy into your own heart’s energy centre and send as much love and light down your right hand and into the dying person as possible. Sending positive energy in this ways helps the dying person feel connected to the energy of the light source. Many energy practitioners who are also nurses testify to the value in using this technique during times of suffering and during times when the Spirit of the dying person is getting ready to transition.

In Conclusion

Because of my varied life experiences, I have been gifted to witness many infants take their first breath and have been with many of all ages as they took their last. I am grateful for these opportunities to witness the Wind of Spirit and its association with these times of great change. This morning as I pondered the wind and reflected on these associations, I recognized that as the West wind whispered change, it was not only announcing a change of the seasons in the natural world, it was reminding me that the Spirit of the Wind blows through each of the seasonal changes in life.

Celebrating Magic: Welcoming New Beginnings

January brings a fresh new year, a blank canvas waiting for creation, a phenomenal opportunity for investing in new opportunities.

The ancient Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the God of gates, doors, and beginnings. Janus had two faces, allowing him to look both backwards into the old year and forwards into the new one. His image reminds us that at the beginning of a new year we have an ideal time for both reflection and creation.reflection

Reflecting on the past year

As I reflect on the year that is ending I find great value in pondering how some of the events that have occurred in 2013 have impacted me both personally and professionally. The following reflection questions have helped me gain deeper insights into the overall significance of these events. I hope they also help you process more completely the impact on your life of some of the happenings of 2103.

1) What are the two most significant events that touched my life during the past year?

2) How did each of these events impact my life, both positively and less than positively?

3) What short term and long term learning did I glean from each event?

4) What images, emotions, and learning do I want to incorporate into my life and bring into the New Year?

5) What images and emotions do I want to release and leave behind as I enter this New Year?

I have found great value in taking the time to reflect on the above questions and to then journal my reflections. When I decided which images, emotions and learning I wanted to retain I began to create a collage on which I placed pictures to depict them. For the images and emotions I did not want to retain I wrote a detailed letter describing the reasons I did not what these aspects to be a part of my life in the New Year. This letter was burned in a simple fire ceremony. As the letter burned I prayed “May the Fire Spirit burn from me these unwanted images and emotions. As the smoke of this burning ascends to Creator may I receive in exchange a powerful blessing that will open many new doors.”

For one of the more difficult emotions attached to a disconcerting image I found it necessary to do a cord cutting exercise. For this I used the cord cutting imagery from my CD Releasing Ties, but during this imagery instead of cutting ties with a relationship I chose instead to name the emotions and images I wished to release.

The above exercises provided me a sense of completion and a feeling of closure to all that had been in the year that is ending. I share my experiences trusting that you too will find them beneficial. If you are a group facilitator you might also like to use these activities in a group setting.

Creating Opportunities for the New Year

Once the activities for bringing closure to the old year are completed it is time to begin the process of creating the new. Here are some suggestions of activities to help each of us step into new opportunities.

1)      Take a daily walk and purposefully walk into the East. On the Great Medicine Wheels of the World, East is considered the direction of new beginnings. Many people, on a healing journey, find that each time they begin an outdoor walk they are instinctively drawn to walk in an easterly direction. This was true in my own life during a time of great healing and I now pay attention to this soul urging each time I have a need to ponder what is next in my life.

2)      Increase the use of the color yellow. Yellow is associated with the East and therefore with dawn, with clarity, illumination and with new beginnings. Add yellow clothing to your ward robe; use this color in decorating and in creative activities. When someone I am working with begins to use a lot of yellow I know they are ready to step more fully into a new beginning.

3)      Complete a collage depicting everything you want to bring into your life in the coming year. Once you have completed the collage mark it off in twelve equal portions. These divisions will represent the coming months. Place the completed collage where you view it each day. At the end of each month review your progress. I find the act of reviewing my monthly progress to be very motivating. If I have successfully completed what is set out for that month I reward myself in some small way. If I have not achieved that goal I write a few short term goals to help me move more steadily in that direction. This year I am using the collage I began last week. That collage contains images representing what I want to bring along from the past year. On the remainder of the collage I will paste pictures to represent all that I want to accomplish in 2014.

4)      Pay attention to the guidance being offered in your dreams. Dream symbols of death can inform us that something must die before the new can come to life. Symbols of death most frequently announce that a change is happening or needs to happen.  Dream symbols of keys, gates and door often announce that we must use a particular key of knowledge or wisdom to unlock the doors and gates that open to new places and new opportunities. Many of these dream symbols have folklore and ancient practices attached to them to remind us of their symbolic messages. One such story is of the door.

In medieval England the New Year began with a custom called ‘first footing.’ At the moment January 1st began people waited behind their doors for a visitor who carried a piece of coal, some bread, some money and some greenery. The coal symbolized that the house would always be warm, the bread that there would be enough food. The money symbolized there would be enough wealth to meet the needs, and the gift of greenery was symbolic of a long and peace-filled life. The visitor would then take a pan of ashes from the house, to signifying departure of the old year.

5) Create a symbolic ritual or ceremony to depicting the ending of the old in your life and the welcoming of new opportunities. I like the symbolism and symbolic actions done in the practice of ‘first footing.’ Our souls long for symbolic food such as this. I have on occasions found that externalize my desires in a ceremonial way increases the chances of achieving the goal.

6) Many astrologers believe the best time to begin a project is at the times of a new moon. The first New Moon of 2014 occurs on January 1. Resolutions made at this time can receive a dynamic boost and since there are several planets in Capricorn the resolution will be provided a stable structure to ensure manifestation. A second New Moon occurs on January 30, giving us another opportunity to get our projects off to a great start.

7) Embrace the magic of the New Year and acknowledge that there is a power available now for you to harness. The universe awaits your decisions and when your choices are made and you commit to those choices the universe will support you and provide you with all the resources you need to make your miracles happen.

The month of January is definitely about launching the new. It is about planting seeds that will soon become seedlings, then bud and bloom so we can reap a grand harvest by this coming autumn. May 2014, be our best year yet.


Igniting the Spark of Inner Peace


 As we enter the month of November I am drawn to reflect on the freedom we are privileged to experience as a result of sacrifices made by the family members who, as veterans, served our countries in the maintenance of peace and liberty. Yet despite their sacrifices the search for peace among nations, within families, between individuals, and between individuals and their environment continues.
Spiritual masters remind us that world peace begins within each of us. A number of years ago on a visit to Westminster Abby, I felt drawn to descend into the Crypt beneath the cathedral. The words on a particular tomb, apparently written by the Anglican bishop buried there, emphasize the need for each of us to start with our self.

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But, it too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one more desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

His epitaph reminds us that when we transform ourselves we transform everything around us. When we live in peace we radiate peace. Marcus Aurelius noted that “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” To transform in the direction of inner peace is to acknowledge that healing ourselves and working toward world peace and Human-Earth ecology is the same work.

As we move into November, the month when we honor in a formal way those who have sacrificed so much for the freedom of our land, let us remember and celebrate them and let us also remember and celebrate the land. To celebrate the land is to remember the transformative aspects of the landscapes and the elements. It is to honor that the Earth is Mother to each of us. Her Rocks, Water, Fire and Air are for each of us, belong fully to each of us and are within each of us. Her Water is our blood. Her Air is our breath, and her Fire is our Spirit.

As we ponder ways to thank and honor all veterans and their families, especially those veterans who are or were a part of our own families, may we also ponder our part in making sure that those who have sacrificed and died for this cause know that we have taken up the torch. May each of us radiate so brightly that our inner torch ignites the spark of inner peace for multitudes, regardless of race, culture or religious beliefs.

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. (Oct. 30, 2013).

Life Review: Living with No Regrets




Reflecting on the Seasonal Changes in Life

For me, August is the time when I begin in earnest to harvest what I have sown in the spring. As I walked amongst the plants this morning, I ruminated on how fruitful some of my efforts were, and of how unproductive other gardening labors have been. As I mulled over some of my early spring decisions about plant choices and planting locations, I was drawn to ponder, one more time, on the metaphoric lessons taught by the seasonal changes continually taking place in my garden.

Reflecting on the constant cycles and transitions taking place, reminded me of the teachings of the Great Medicine Wheels of the World. Within this system of learning Spring is represented by the East and is symbolic of birth and youth and of all new beginnings. The South represents Summer; it is the place of the productive adult and represents the time of growth and fruitfulness. The West symbolizes Autumn and reflects the time to reap what is sown in the spring times and early summer months of our lives. Mid-life and later adulthood hold the place of the West. The North is symbolic of winter and represents the place of the Elder and the wisdom learned through the process of taking our place on each of the spokes of the Medicine Wheel.

The month of August often awakens a voice from deep within, a voice calling us to take account of the fruitfulness of our labors. Have we made good choices, good decisions? Did we sow strong seeds and in the correct places, in this and the other spring times of our life? Did we weed out the shoots that were attempting to strangle good new growth? Did we water and nurture the good growth until it produced good sweet fruit?
The metaphoric voice stirred by the seasonal changes of harvest prompt us into a process of life-review. Life-review is a soulful attempt at taking stock of our lives. Eric Erickson, a developmental theorist, described the life review process as a time to ask if the God’s are pleased with what, to this point, we have made of our lives. He referred to life review as a testing time, as a time when we examine and bless those aspects of life that we feel satisfied with, and attempt to make amends for those events and times where we recognize that we did not do as well as we should have.

Many, not recognizing the soulfulness of this experience, can feel confused by their need to reexamine various aspects of their earlier years. Yet, there is great value in doing a review of one’s life during the years when there may still be enough life-time left to make some important life and relationship changes.
In doing the life review some have regrets over choices made or not made. I would like to offer three bits of wisdom to help heal the emotional attachments to these regrets.

1)    Reward yourself for wishing you had made a different choice.
To me this means that over the years you have changed and transformed considerably.  If there was nothing in your past that you would not change if given the chance, then I would think there is a high possibility that very little soul growth has happened for you during the course of your lifetime.

2)    Put yourself right back in the same situation as you were when you made that choice and then determine if you were back there, at the same age, with the same skills, knowledge, resources, abilities and supports you had then, would you make the same decision as you made then?
We often judge the past from the place of wisdom, knowledge and experience of where we are now. That is not therapeutic. Most people, when asked to go right back to an earlier situation recognize that under the circumstances that they were in at that time, they likely made the best decision possible for them.
I like to offer this affirmation as a way to solidify this acknowledgement. “I did the best I could at the time. If I have another chance I will make my choices based on the knowledge and skills I now have.”

3)    Look at the event to which you have a regret attached and ponder the outcomes by asking, “And then what happened?” When you become aware of a positive outcome ask the same question again, “And then what happened?”  Continue this circular form of questioning until you are able to identify that overall there have been some very positive outcomes to that difficult event.

Doing the above process of life review can help us see life as a more meaningful whole rather than as snippets of difficult life events.

Happy autumn and may you reap bushels of fruit from the good seeds you have planted in the springs and early summers of your life.

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. August, 2013