Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, speaks volumes of wisdom to us in daily life and is especially important for us as we maneuver life after losing someone we loved. The first anniversaries of special occasions from birthdays to religious and civic holidays mark one more time we will not be with a person we were related to. Sometimes the biological connection was absent of love. The biological connection could have been our abuser, or have been physically present, but emotionally absent. They could have been quite special to us and thus the loss has hit hard. Each of the agreements (in italics below) provides concepts that can help us love who we are amid the challenges of death.
Ruiz’s text can bring some solace as we reflect on the relationship and embark on the healing process, as we look back and live in the present. Be impeccable with your word, as we say what we mean and mean what we say, allows us to honor the person who died, and yet commit to living our lives. We can tell the truth and live our truth, with no regrets. We can show up in life and if we cannot participate as we promised, we let people know. At the same time, we need not make any promises, as the end of life issues get settled, that we cannot keep.
Don’t take anything personally gives us the freedom to not get trapped in a family drama that often arises when a loved one dies. Filters often falter and people speak before thinking with the shock and pain of grief. We need to shake off callous statements when people say things that are inappropriate or thoughtless when they do not know what to say. We need not react. We also realize that everyone has a right to their opinion and that we give everything all the meaning it has.
Don’t make assumptions is an important rule for any relationship, and is most significant when dealing with a personal loss. We cannot assume we know the intention of the deceased regarding end of life arrangements, what the remaining family has in mind, how the death affects all those related, and how relationships will fare afterward. At this time, we must listen with compassion and grace. We must not react and always ask for clarification if we are not sure we understand what a person said, and particularly what they meant.
Always do your best is like the Golden Rule, do unto others the way we would have them do unto us. When we bring our best selves, we bring love and care—freedom, appreciation, and empathy. We do not judge ourselves or others. We have no regrets and start to make peace about the death of the loved one. We begin to think of the sweet memories. If the relationship was a poor one, we begin to process the grief the best we can and begin to release any pain the relationship created.