There is so much that can stop us from really exploring what this time might offer and this can keep us away from being deeply connected to the love we might otherwise come to experience and share.
The message here is: it is much wiser not to wait but to talk about death in the same way we discuss and celebrate birth. Conversations about death do not have to be serious and heavy. Once death is accepted as a natural process, conversations can be light-hearted and even playful.
When we begin to explore what the death process may offer, we realise that there are many similarities in birth and death as being the beginning and completion of the next cycle of life. We start to understand that apprehension about death is fearing the unknown because we don’t remember what it feels like to move from being in a physical body to being without one, free of its restrictions although, as many are aware, we have all experienced this many, many times over.
Could it be that through talking about death openly and sharing honestly how we feel, we can begin to accept that death is a natural process and understand that it need not be feared?
It is never too late to start the conversation. If we haven’t talked about death and dying throughout our life, it can be distressing for all involved when death is obviously approaching. It can be an emotionally challenging time so the subject needs to be handled sensitively as it can bring up many feelings of sadness, grief and unresolved issues.
When we are near death those around us will be aware that we are in the process of dying and to not talk about it puts barriers between them and us – everyone knows but no one wants to be the first to mention it.
When nearing the end of life we may be ready to leave but feel that we have to hang on because others are not ready for us to go – they don’t want to lose us so they encourage us to keep going and not give up.
Could it be that most of us have an attachment to life with our own unresolved feelings about death rather than accepting it as a normal part of living?
Even doctors, nurses and carers who are experienced in supporting people in the final stages of life can be uneasy talking about death with a dying person.
Nurses are not routinely trained in this process and do not necessarily know how to be with someone who is dying. Doctors are often reluctant to tell their patient that they are close to dying, let alone talk to them about what they could expect, and it is not uncommon for family members, medical professionals and carers to give false hope rather than being honest.
We can dread death as the unknown or we can be afraid of how we are going to die, for example, in discomfort, pain, alone etc. or we may have religious beliefs about the afterlife that can stir up a great deal of anxiousness and even terror! For many it is the days, weeks or months leading up to dying rather than death itself that causes concern as we are unaware of the process and worry about how we and others will handle what is perceived as a sad, painful and often traumatic event.
We may be less concerned about our own death but are distressed about the impact on family, friends and colleagues. Sharing with others what we are feeling and talking about death openly supports everyone to make preparations.
If we had more open conversations about death would it also mean that we would view and accept death as a natural process and people who are dying would experience this stage of life very differently?
Once the truth is shared it can offer a feeling of freedom, release, openness and honesty and bring everyone closer together. Everybody can then support the one who is dying to talk about what they are feeling and for all to share more deeply what they mean to each other.
The more we understand the dying process, the greater can be the healing in talking about it and planning in advance. With early and open discussion there is the opportunity to make unhurried and carefully considered preparations and what we are feeling may change so our end of life plans can be reviewed at any time.
Yes, we are all going to die one day so is it possible that the more we talk about death, the lighter and easier conversations become so that the dying process may be a positive and even joyful experience? Could we come to understand death as a completion of a life in a cycle of many lives and the opportunity to put into practice all we have learned from one life to the next?
D&D Writing Team, Australia & UK
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