Dangerous Compassions

death trauma

death trauma Ming

Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  Do you have death trauma?

I notice three main paths.

  1. We can ignore death, like fools!
  2. We can get deep into it–we can become death dulas, plan out how we want our bodies composted, and make peace with death through religion and/or preparation.
  3. Or the choice of me and Ming: we can feel death stalking us and our loved ones all day, every day, like a nasty shadow.  Our anxiety undulates from almost absent, to full on panic-terror.
faith in bodies

I was telling Ming it hurts, to think about death all the time.  When I was 10 or so and my dad had his first heart attack, he had cardiac arrest, flat lined, and was shocked back to life.  It was traumatic, how my young dad died and came back.  He was almost a goner.

I lost faith in our bodies.   It was very sudden.  I learned our bodies can kill us at any time.

I’ve mentioned before how earthquakes freaked me out as a kid too.  You’re going about your life–suddenly the ground is shaking, and you can die real quick.  Or you can be buried in rubble and die slow.

Ming and I have a lot of death trauma.  We were in our bedroom one afternoon–Ming was straightening up, and I was lying in bed, super sad, horizontal with grief.

Yes, the holidays are hard.  I miss my mom.

“We understand things I wish we didn’t,” I said.

Ming was a nurse, and he’s a street medic now.  He’s almost impossible to shock.  He’s seen it all, or at least he’s seen a lot.


“It’s hard to know about death and carry this death trauma,” Ming said.  “But I’m glad we are realistic.  I don’t think it’s better, the people who are blissfully ignorant.”

“I would love to be blissfully ignorant with you,” I told Ming.

That’s when we both started crying.

“But that wouldn’t be us,” I continued.  “We aren’t happy-go-lucky people.  We have so much fun, and so much love.  But death really gets us down.  It’s part of who we are.”


I thought of all Ming has lost–his griefs, and the things he does to compensate.  In some ways, our whole lives are in response to our death trauma.

  • the radical mental health collective
  • our impulse to cook Food Not Bombs and do other care for impoverished people
  • the zines I make
  • my tendency to accumulate too much stuff
  • Ming’s tendency to accumulate way too much stuff

Can I imagine us lighthearted, not seeing visions of our own death and one another’s deaths, all the time?

Yes, I can imagine us, and maybe he can imagine it too.  That’s why we were crying.  If we had less death trauma, we would carry a lot less suffering.  Sounds amazing, to go through a day without the hells we privately put ourselves through, in our own heads.


But I like us this way.  Thank you for liking us too, dear reader.  Death lights a fire under all of us.  Death trauma can be part of our motivation to love.

Life’s short, and so am I.  Let’s love one another while we have a moment.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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