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Thread: My mother's death

  1. #1

    My mother's death

    Hello all,

    Two months ago my mother was killed in a tragic accident that my father and I were witness to. In the past two months I have had trouble coming to terms with her extremely sudden death and its impacts on my life. I returned to my Zazen practice a few days after the accident and have found momentary peace there but my mind is stormy and restless when I am not sitting. I understood concepts of impermanence and non-attachment but having someone close to me killed before my eyes made me realize how attached I really was. I find myself thinking more about the four noble truths but I am at a loss on how to proceed. I am writing to ask all of your opinions of death, attachment, impermanence, and possible life after death.



  2. #2
    Hello Robby,

    thank you for joining the Treeleaf forum.

    Something as traumatic as that which you describe in your post cannot be meditated or reasoned away, especially not after only two months. We are all different in how we grieve, but around here we let tears fall when they rain down our cheeks and are present too in moments of joy. Emotional pain of the kind that you hint at can really tear your guts out on a level that no fancy or wise Buddhist concept can ever reach at short notice. Give yourself time to grieve, give yourself time to find healing together with your father, or individually if each one of you needs some space and silence for themselves.

    One of the most regularly told anecdotes about a Zen approach to death goes like this...

    A young monk once approached his teacher and asked him: "Roshi, a serene Master like yourself must surely know what happens after death?" The teacher smiled at his young and eager student "How should I know? I may be a Zen master, but not a dead one!"

    My personal opinion of death is that it sucks...and that it is a most powerful reminder to try and walk along this path of life with integrity and honesty...and without fearing to say "I love you."

    If you find the time, maybe you can introduce yourself a bit further.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  3. #3
    Hi Robby

    My feelings are similar to those of Hans.

    Whatever we understand about death, there is a physical and emotional reaction to the loss of a loved one, especially so when it is so sudden and you were present at the accident itself.

    I would suggest not expecting your mind not to be turbulent at the moment or expecting this to be something that goes away quickly. Certain cultures are known to give people time outside of normal expectations of functioning following such a death. In modern society, there is often an expectation to be back to normal fairly quickly. Grief cannot be rushed or processed away with the intellect.

    Attachment to those we love is completely understandable and not something that Buddhism tries to do away with. It is part of being human as is our reaction to loss.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Robby. Be kind and gentle to yourself during this difficult time.


    ps. something I do find helpful (although to establish a greater rather than lesser connection to my lost loved on) is lighting some incense in their memory and/or reciting a favourite sutra or piece of liturgy such as The Heart Sutra.

  4. #4
    Hi Robby,

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. It is never easy to lose anyone especially someone so close and important to us. Please allow yourself time to heal. It is only natural if your mind is stormy and restless.

    I would like to offer some of my humble opinion on the matter and hopefully you can find something helpful.

    I think a lot of time in the Buddhist community, we have this idea that we must let go of all attachment as if a being with no feelings. In our world, this emotional attachment really does help us function and interact, it is the force that push us further as a species and civilization. I think it is quite okay to feel attached, especially to a close family member. It was said that even the Buddha himself felt sadness after the passing away of his two chief disciples Sariputra and Moggalana. Ananda too felt great sadness when Sariputra passed away and when the Buddha himself passed away. If the fully awakened one felt such sadness, it is perfectly alright for us to feel this sadness and attachment to the one we care for dearly.

    I think in our practice we just learn to accept things as they are and to be able to learn to let the pain of the past drift away.

    I don't know what the rest of treeleaf sangha's belief on rebirth is like, but since my background is in Pure Land Buddhism, I personally believe in some form of transcendental rebirth in the literal sense just us I believe Pure Land both metaphorically and literally. With that, I will keep your mother in prayers.

    Another thing you may want to consider is counselling. It isn't easy to witness the death of a family member, can be traumatizing. Sometimes it is even harder to move on or even cope with it. Counselling might be able to help a great deal in situation like this.

    I hope you the best and that may you and your family find peace.


  5. #5
    Hello Robby,

    it's me again

    Andy said one of the most important things in this context. Be good to yourself. I realise that this sentence maybe even doesn't make too much sense, but what it points to is not to judge oneself too harshly, to allow oneself and others space and to do things that may aid the process of coming to terms with the recent events.

    It takes time.


    And it always hurts.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  6. #6

    Thank you for the response. I have definitely grieved and let tears fall and I completely understand what you said about death being a reminder to live with integrity and honesty. I know that the healing process for me will most likely take years and I am walking that path. I guess I am just looking to begin accepting her death and celebrating that she lived rather than mourning her death.

    As for a further introduction, I don't really know what to say other than that I am a jazz musician studying music in college and I am an avid runner.


  7. #7

  8. #8
    I was with my mom when she died. But that was a natural death at high age. It hurt. It still does, three years after. How much more must it be for you. I believe all we can do, always, is to do what we can for those alive. This includes ourself. Sometimes we urge for a "solution" or a formula "what to do", but all we can do is going on with our life. I believe all things just take the time it takes, we cant make it faster, not really. We're all attached, I'm sure Jundo is, Taigu is. I certainly am attached more than I wish, and the wish to not be so attached is another attachment to a zen-superhero-image that simply is not true. I really cannot give a clever advice, but sitting zazen regularly is certainly what comes to my mind first. Take good care,

  9. #9

    My sincerest condolences on your loss. There's really nothing anyone can say, no words that can take away the pain, no reasoning to be found for these events. As has been said, be good to yourself. We are always here.

    If I am posting, I have sat today.

  10. #10
    Metta to all.


  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Robby View Post
    I guess I am just looking to begin accepting her death and celebrating that she lived rather than mourning her death.

    As for a further introduction, I don't really know what to say other than that I am a jazz musician studying music in college and I am an avid runner.

    Hi Robby. Like others have said, I'm sorry for your loss - I can't imagine it, or even maybe better put, my imaginings can't come close to the reality. Though, I think I can understand wanting to, as you say, begin accepting her death and celebrating her life. I think that's a great thing, a great impulse. I would liken all this to zazen - isn't it so that, despite the fact that we are constantly told not to want too much, not to push too hard for the big enlightenment goal, not to force our zazen into a blissy or peaceful or calm place, or to put too much attention on getting kensho, isn't it true that we all do that sometimes? I think probably so, to some degree. I know I catch myself in those little traps. Maybe this is the same for you right now? Maybe it's that you think your Buddhist training should be kicking in, giving you that peace you believe should be there when we can see things, understand things like impermanence or non-attachment, etc? Please, I could be wrong, this is just what I see in your brief comments. I know, for myself, I'm deeply attached to my wife. If something were to happen to her, or if we somehow separated, because sometimes that's what happens in life, I know it would be extremely painful, and probably the only thing that Buddhism has taught me is that that feeling will pass in time. All the rest is uncertain. Be stormy, be restless, and like Hans and others have said, be easy on yourself. How do you proceed? You already are. You're here talking to us, and we're glad to talk and share.


  12. #12
    Having sat with grief for a long time, I should probably say something. First, everyone deals with grief differently and at their own pace. Grief counseling especially in a group can be very helpful. You realize that everyone at various points in their lives experiences grief. In the beginning of grief it's important to focus on taking good care of yourself with rest, diet and exercise.
    With time grief subsides and softens but the love and memories of the departed remain.
    The way to proceed is in the direction of life and taking care of self and others.
    Opinions are useless. Just sit.

    Kind regards. /\
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  13. #13
    Hello Robby,

    I cannot give much more information that has not been shared, but I wish much metta to you and your family ... Loosing a family member is very hard, so please know we are here for you if you need.

    Be kind with yourself and time will be your friend during this journey.

    Deep bows
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  14. #14
    Hi Robby.
    Brutal, heart breaking reality. Life never the same again. But life still possible. Only you will know how. With love and support.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  15. #15
    Hi Robby,
    I'm sorry for your loss. I think the only advice I can give is to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. There are no wrong feelings. Much metta to you and your family.


    泰 Entai (Bill)
    "trying to shovel smoke with a pitchfork in the wind "- John Lennon

  16. #16
    Robby, I too have been witness to the sudden violent death of a dear one. It changed me utterly, in ways both complicated and illuminating. Zen helped, slowly.
    That said, I am very cautious about giving someone grieving any advice. Everyone's experience is different, and goes at its own pace. This is a big event, no need to rush. You will find your own path with it.
    Walking with you.

  17. #17
    Hi Robby,

    As has been said by so many wise voices above, here we grieve because it is a time for grieving. The shock of seeing death is what sent the Buddha on his quest for enlightenment.

    Through our Buddha Way, we encounter a Peace and Wholeness, transcending birth and death, a Joy which holds both the happy days and sad ... yet at the same time, there is birth and there is death, happy days and sad. I hope a little of that Light can shine through your darkness and grief.

    It is a good time to tell again the the story of Kisa Ghotami ...

    When her son died just a few years into his life, Kisa Gotami went mad with grief. A wise person saw her condition and told her to find the Buddha, who had the medicine she needed. Kisa Gotami went to the Buddha, and asked him to give her the medicine that would restore her dead child to life. The Buddha told her to go out and find a mustard seed from a house where nobody had died. Kisa Gotami was heartened, and began her search, going door to door. Everyone was willing to give her a mustard seed, but every household she encountered had seen at least one death. She understood why the Buddha had sent her on this quest. She returned to the Buddha, who confirmed what she had realized: "There is no house where death does not come."
    I also recall this story of my first teacher, Azuma Roshi, about 25 years ago ...

    I remember how shocked I was when I saw Azuma Roshi, my first "real Japanese Zen Master", crying one day soon after his wife died. I had just come to Japan, and thought Zen teachers were supposed to be above all that. I said to him directly (and a bit coldly) "I thought 'life and death' are but a dream, so why are you crying?" He responded, "Life and death are but a dream. I am crying because beloved wife died."

    Foolish me. Death is like a dream ... but a sometimes very bitter dream.

    To feel grief at the death of someone we love, even great and prolonged grief, is natural to the human condition.

    To feel ashamed or guilty for feeling grief is another story, adding another layer of suffering! Let yourself feel what it is natural for human beings to feel, even as you realize that it is the natural "mind theatre" of human beings ... grief, longing for those we love, fear and the like. If possible, don't fall in, try not to allow oneself to be swept away as a prisoner of such passing emotions ... but also allow yourself to feel such way and don't resist. Most healthy humans feel intense grief at the loss of someone they love having died.

    Here is a typical traditional image of the Buddha's death scene. Notice most of his closest students obviously distraught and in tears (though one or two also seem to be managing a smile too).

    Give things time, Rob, and this wound too will heal very much ... even as you will always miss your mother.

    If we may, we will dedicate Zazen to your mother and family.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-08-2014 at 02:46 AM.

  18. #18
    We are here. Please stay in touch. I will not try to add to the wise words that have been shared here except to say that you are not alone.

    Deep bows

  19. #19
    hi Robby,

    I was very close to an elderly relative who was bludgeoned into a coma from which she did not recover, many years ago. She was in her 90s. I can still feel my utter astonishment at what happened many miles away from me at the time, like a pale reflection of of the sucker punch life had landed on her. I never realized how much worse the experience would have been for me had I actually witnessed it.

    I guess I can't say truthfully that "it'll get better" but mine grew smaller, -remaining a stark lesson about the brutality inherent in life. perhaps no longer an iron ball stuck in my gullet but now like a old bullet stuck somewhere close to de bone.

    my condolences for your terrible loss. I, too, am saddened by it.


    Last edited by Oheso; 03-08-2014 at 02:47 AM.
    and neither are they otherwise.

  20. #20

    It perfectly okay to feel lost and confused after such a loss. It's the most human thing to do. Only time and you will to be okay again will lead you through.

    I have found zazen has to be part of grief because it grounds you and makes you one with that it is, with that is happening. But at the same time helps you see things in perspective so you can accept life and keep on walking.

    We are always here for you.

    It can't rain all the time.


    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  21. #21
    Hello all,

    Thank you so much for your wisdom and support. I will continue the grieving process and celebrate the beauty that was her life. I have come to think that maybe the lack of attachment in this situation is not feeling indifferent but rather celebrating her life and yet accepting her death. My mother was born in Japan when the Cherry blossoms were blooming and I can't help but think about their symbolism now. Again, thank you all for your kind words.



  22. #22
    Much metta to you and your father Robby, the death of a loved can cut deep. I don't have anything else really to add to the wise words everyone has contributed, except that detachment and un-attachment are different. Detachment can mold a cast of indifference, un-attachment can allow one to love freely and earnestly. And the advice I told myself the last time a loved one passed was, "The wave is the sea." It comes and goes without ever coming or going. So too do we. Loving-kindess to you Robby.

    Deep bows,
    Foolish John

  23. #23
    Nothing wise to say, just sitting with you...much metta to you and your family

    Kōshin / Leo

    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  24. #24

    Much Metta to you and your family. I lost my mother unexpectedly when I was young and she was young. That was almost 25 years ago, and I still work with the loss on some levels. I'm also struggling with grief right now from some recent losses. I think the best we can do is be patient and good to ourselves. I'm relatively new to the Sangha, and I've found the support and kindness invaluable.



  25. #25
    Hi Robby

    Condolences for your loss and much metta to you and you family. Welcome to Treeleaf also, and may your practice deepen.
    I will sit today for all experiencing grief at the loss of loved ones.

  26. #26
    Hello Robby,

    I am sorry for your loss. To lose a parent, especially in tragic circumstances, is very hard.
    I hope the kindness and compassion of this sangha gives you some support while you are working through your grief.



  27. #27

    I'm so sorry for your loss. There is so much wisdom here, I hope you find some sense of solace and comfort during these difficult times. You and your family are in my metta. I'm at a loss for words right now, just know we are here for you.


  28. #28

    You and your family are in my prayers and thoughts.



  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Robby View Post
    Hello all,

    Thank you so much for your wisdom and support. I will continue the grieving process and celebrate the beauty that was her life. I have come to think that maybe the lack of attachment in this situation is not feeling indifferent but rather celebrating her life and yet accepting her death. My mother was born in Japan when the Cherry blossoms were blooming and I can't help but think about their symbolism now. Again, thank you all for your kind words.


    Cherry Blossoms are a very spiritual thing. They are renewal and Life.
    My deepest sympathies in this difficult time.
    Sit Zazen and keep those flowing trees in mind.
    No matter how hard the wind blows, or the rain pelts those delicate flowers .. they will always grow back.
    I will think of you in my Zazen tonight.

    Deepest bows,

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