On Death and Grief

28 December 2011

THE PASSING OF THE YEAR, GILL EDWARDS AND ROGER WOOLGER

In the weeks before Christmas my heart was moved by the death of two friends, who may also be well known to you. You will, I am sure, want to join me in sending condolences to the families of Roger Woolger and Gill Edwards who both died, too young for my liking. May their journeys be graceful and blessed. May their families feel love and comfort.

Roger, you may remember, was the author of several books including the classic Other Lives, Other Selves about reincarnation and how our past lives affect us today. He was a full-blooded, intelligent, wry and independent thinker who helped to pioneer and clarify a therapeutic approach to past life memories and regression. His company was warm and stimulating.

Gill, of course, was the author of the pivotal Living Magically, which was and still is a crucial bestseller and gateway book, opening up thousands of people to their inherent spirituality.  Like Roger she too had a background in psychology. She was also an accomplished teacher and an inspiration to so many people in the world of contemporary spirituality.  Only recently she published another inspiring book Conscious Medicine.

Both of them were pioneers, synthesising the best of modern psychology with the wisdom of ancient spiritual traditions. I knew them both over thirty years and had collaborated with them in various ways, always knowing that I could contact them for advice or suggestions, and sometimes we shared students who needed special support.
Whenever I met either of them over the last three decades, our conversations were immediately intimate, good-humoured and helpful. We knew that we were part of a movement exploring new ways of expressing and teaching spiritual development. We shared an affectionate solidarity. I am sure that all of you who knew them too, whether as colleagues, students or readers, also appreciated their strength of spiritual character and presence.

And I miss them both.

They were part of my personal landscape for many years. I am sad that their physical presence is no longer here for me and I feel some grief. I imagine that you too, reading about their passing, may also feel some emotions of loss. This is a normal human response, isn’t it, a normal sadness and emotion?

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But here is the irony. From the other side of death, looking down on us, I can imagine both of them smiling: Hey you down there, stop all that grieving. Life continues after death. We’re still here, but just in another dimension and we’ll meet again. Stop your sadness and get on with life!

Roger’s books and teachings were all about the continuity of life after death and Gill’s teachings too were filled with information about the invisible dimensions. In fact, after her death Gill’s family posted on her website a letter that she had recently written to someone who had just lost a loved one. Gill’s letter reminded this person about life after death and the continuation of consciousness and connection.

I too write and teach about these realms. I even lead a course on how to support the transfer of consciousness at death and I spend time every day in meditation, contemplating the dimensions beyond the gateway of death. I am sure that many readers of this article are also attuned to these spiritual dimensions.

But here’s the rub for us. For all the beauty of life beyond death and for all the spiritual realities, we are also warm-blooded creatures, mammals, beings of feeling and emotion. And Gill and Roger were also flesh and blood — and now they are gone.

They may be alive in another dimension, but in this one they are missed.

I write all this as a counterpoint to those spiritual folk who may deny natural, instinctive and healthy emotions, suggesting that death should have no poignancy.

For all the wisdom and knowledge we may have about life after death, would any of us dare to tell a parent not to grieve for their lost child? Or dare to advise a young child not to grieve for a lost parent? This would not be humane. It would lack heart, which is at the core of spirituality — heart, compassion, empathy, fully present to human sadness, suffering and loss, as well as to joy, celebration and genius.

Without heart, perhaps all the knowledge of the inner worlds is worth nothing.

So whilst we may know full well that Gill and Roger are smiling, enjoying their new dimensions, and whilst celebrating their lives and gifts, it is also understandable, normal and fully human to feel loss and miss them.
And this perhaps is what I value most about my friends, students, colleagues and teachers. We have a sense of community, a community of the heart. May it expand and radiate to serve all.

So my lovely friends and companions, whether you are in this world or the next, may the coming year be filled with graceful growth, cosmic enjoyment and abundant blessings.