Richard, the 3-Achiever (an older member of the panel of mostly 30-year-olds speaking about death at the International Enneagram Conference in Denver this summer) still mourns the deaths of his parents. “When I was young I was afraid of death. I’m not any longer. My parents modeled how to die for me. My father had heart disease. He said, ‘I’m done’ and slowly slipped away. My mother had a stroke and lived with a caretaker. I called her every day. Every month my brother or I went to spend a week with her. One morning at 7:00 I called and asked if she was okay. I heard something in her voice. I called my brother and said mom is dying today. Again at lunchtime and dinnertime, I told her I loved her. The call came at 1:00 am that she had died. I have no idea how I knew. I had had a troubled relationship with her; on my last visit she asked me if I had forgiven her and I had. It was peaceful.”
NY Times author Mark Epstein says, “Mourning has no timetable. Grief is not the same for everyone. And it does not always go away. [Therapists seem to agree that] the healthiest way to deal with trauma is to lean into it, rather than try to keep it at bay.”
Richard went on, “I never liked the idea of death. When I was faced with a coronary artery bypass I wasn’t frightened at all. I asked my family if they had any questions for me. My daughter asked, “Do you love my brother more than me?” I answered I love them differently and I couldn’t say I love one more than the other. If I died, I’d die. My son asked me if there was anything I wanted. I had heard a French pianist playing a Chopin nocturne and he got that CD for me, which I played over and over in my room. I woke up the next day with 5 stents and haven’t had any trouble since. I had done what I needed to do. I was surprised at how tranquil I was because I go to the 6-Questioner. I had gotten to the point in my life where I was okay with it. I don’t know where we go after we die but I’m not scared.”
Gail, the 4-Romantic, said, “I’ve had a lot of suffering because my brother was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. The possibility of losing him was so horrible, I just had to believe he’d be okay. I call my mother every day now; you’ve got to appreciate the people you’ve got while they’re still alive. I’m trying to balance the real possibility of my brother’s death with trying to not think about it. If anything happened to him or my nephews I don’t think I could survive. I don’t believe in god, but when this happened I wished I had something spiritual to help me.”
Kacie, the 5-Observer, said, “I worry the most about sudden death. I’m always aware I or my loved ones could die any time. When I see someone I care about, I tell them I love them in case we never see each other again. I feel we really don’t know what happens after we die. We have to live right now.”
See Part I (types 1, 2, and 3) of this blog Sept. 24.
See Part III (types 6, 7, and 8) on Oct. 22.
Read my blog about healing PSTD in Psychology Today Oct. 1.
Visit “The Enneagram of Parenting” on FaceBook.
Check out my work on wagele.com.