Death and the Art of Letting Go

Image courtesy of Guillaume de Germaine at Unsplash

If you’ve spent even a small bit of time with the tarot, one of the first things you were probably told was that “the Death card doesn’t necessarily mean death.” And that’s true. But it does signify an ending, and if our endlessly renewed television shows, tendencies to go back to terrible relationships, and inability to give up bad habits tells us anything about humanity…well, we’re not so great at letting go. Unless you’re forced to watch something end or its torn from your grasp, letting go with any degree of grace can be the most challenging thing you ever do in life. With any luck (or sometimes, lack of it), you can make an art out of it…even a beautiful art.

What’s so great about letting go? Well, if you’ve ever tried to hold onto too many grocery bags in an attempt to limit trips between your car and kitchen, you know that there’s a limit to how much you can comfortably carry. Overburden yourself and the weight starts to cut into your hands, numbing you until you’re at risk of losing everything. This can be a scary prospect, especially if you’re comfortable with the status quo or you’ve ever gone without in your life. Maybe you grew up with frequent cutoff notices from utility companies, and now you have twelve different credit cards in an attempt to always have something to turn to in order to pay a bill…only to overextend your credit. Maybe there was no one to love you the way you needed for much of your life, and now you’re cycling between relationships looking for the romance the fairytales promised you. Maybe it’s as simple as a minor hoarding problem you’ve developed, scared that if you throw something away, you’ll need it one day and won’t have the money to get it.

In each of these cases, what keeps us from moving forward is fear. Fear keeps us bound to the past, unable to move as surely as if we’d become stuck in cement. But like physical death, the Death card cannot be stopped. Its kindness is in its warning, but it is up to you to act. The Death card is a reminder that life isn’t stagnant, that endings are necessary in order for there to be beginnings. It is the promise of rest and renewal before rebirth, the gentle insistence that even though things may seem bleak right now, this is just one part of your journey. The end of one chapter means the beginning of another – and who knows what exciting adventures lie ahead? Forewarned, you have the opportunity to meet Death on your own terms, working with the change instead of against it.

So often, people argue over whether everything is already determined or if we have free will…but what if it’s both? What if some things are destined to happen, but the power lies in choosing how it will happen?

What if, upon being forced by a reading to confront the fact that your relationship is in tatters, you could make a plan for how to disentangle yourself from it? What if you knew you were burning out at your job, but could start taking steps now to look for another one or train for something even better? What could you accomplish if, instead of trying to prevent life from changing, you instead worked to guide the course of the change so that you could better take advantage of the new opportunities that present themselves? What would that power be like?

So what should you do if you draw the Death card in a tarot reading? First of all, don’t panic. Remember that this card doesn’t represent physical death. Instead, take some time to reflect on what changes may be coming your way. Are there areas of your life that feel stagnant or unfulfilling? Are there relationships or habits that you know deep down aren’t serving you? The Death card is an invitation to take a hard look at these areas and make some tough choices. By being made aware that something needs to change, something needs to end, you can take control and do so on terms that are more comfortable for you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of change, try to focus on the positives. Remember that even though endings can be difficult, they also make room for new beginnings. What opportunities might arise once you let go of the old? How might your life look different — and better — on the other side of this transition?

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek support. Change can be tough to navigate alone. Talk to trusted friends or family members, or consider working with a therapist or life coach to help you through this process.

In conclusion, the Death tarot card may have a scary reputation, but it’s actually a powerful symbol of transformation and growth. When we’re willing to face our fears and embrace change, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and opportunities. So don’t be afraid to draw the Death card -– when we learn to embrace change and become adaptable, we’re better prepared to survive what Life throws at us.

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