One of the greatest impediments to success to having a good death is friends and family who don’t want to talk about death in real terms.

Wanting to talk about death doesn’t mean a person is morbid. It means your loved one is realistic. No-one gets out of life alive. Talking about death is as natural as talking about birth.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why our loved ones want to talk about death and how that’s a positive sign

 

It’s recognising a change of status

Life is made up of lifecycles. We’re born, we toddle, we grow, become teenagers and mature into adulthood. Menopause and ageing and death all get a little less press and coverage. Yet they are an intrinsic part of life.

When we start to age, our body, mind and the speed in which pop culture moves tells us pretty quickly that a change has occurred. In the same way we might prepare for school or puberty, adulthood or child-rearing, we begin to become far more interested in end-of-life as we age.

If the elders in your family and/or community start to reflect more on the ageing process and end-of-life matters, it’s because your loved ones are psychologically, physically and emotionally aware they have shifted into a new lifecycle. And like all the cycles before that, the desire to talk about death usually means they are getting prepared.

It’s self-advocacy on a generational level  

The Baby Boomers are a generation of people who advocated to end wars, women’s liberation, strive for LGBT and racial equality, and to save the environment. This is a generation that is used to asking for change and getting it. They are masters at self-advocacy.

Boomers want to reshape their end-of-life experience. To do that, they need to talk about death.

How Baby Boomers want to different experience of ageing and dying to that of their parents and grandparents. They are less religious, less passive and far more engaged with technology. They are research-orientated and interesting in understanding concepts on a deeper level.

And most of all, they want autonomy, control and to be included in the decision-making process and this is reflected in the changes to aged care in Australia. 

By pushing for more individualised care, this generation is also setting the expectation that their end-of-life experience will mirror it.

That’s a positive for everyone because it means ageing and end-of-life care are becoming far more customised, inclusive and supportive as the trend continues. And that means increasing clarity and reducing the potential for trauma as a result.

It’s a natural part of facing our mortality

The desire to talk about death is a natural part of the ageing process. It’s about greeting the melancholy that may be attached to ageing and processing that change. Especially when disease, illness and disability feature for the first time in someone’s life.

If your loved one’s view of their health and mortality shifts, it’s perfectly natural for the conversation to follow suit.

By understanding ageing brings a heightened sense of one’s own mortality, we reduce the stress and open the door to talk about death in honest, transparent and information-rich terms.

It helps give a sense of control

If your loved one is facing a major change to their health status, it’s only natural they will want to get prepared for the road ahead. Especially when treatment and medical decisions reduce the level of control a person enjoys over their timetable, lifestyle choices and bodily autonomy.

Don’t discount the self-care found in organising other areas of life when facing high impact situations.  Psychologically, it’s powerful to care for yourself in other ways when you’re facing an unsolvable situation such as a life-limiting or terminal diagnosis.

Wanting to talk about death is a way to sort through options and ideas. It also restores the sense of control we have over our lives.

It helps with recovery and healing

Sadly, many Australians have experienced a less than ideal death in the past. It can shape some people to have a reticence about facing mortality. It can drive others to ensure that their loved ones don’t face the same pain and difficulties.

Wanting to save the people we love from the heartache we have experienced in the past is admirable and generous.

Treating this desire to talk about death with care will help your loved one figure out a better end-of-life experience. And it will likely help you, too.

It’s a natural state for organised people

Some people are more organised than others. They have their clothes labelled in boxes in the shed, awaiting the seasonal changes. All their financial records are found in the cloud or neatly lined up concertina files. Their wardrobe or shed is a masterpiece.

If this is your loved one, they are likely to organise their end-of-life with the same gusto. And that means at some point, they are likely to talk about death.

Organising can be a great way for people to channel their energy, frustrations, personality and even anxiety.

So, if you have a loved one who has always found organising a comforting process, remember that this desire for comfort should be respected instead of impeded.

It’s a way of asking for reassurance

Facing old age and/or end-of-life can be scary. You don’t have to be regretful or lacking in adventures or life experience to feel trepidation when it comes to end-of-life.

Planning, understanding, increasing knowledge and death literacy can help allay fears and provide a sense of certainty.

Realistically, we cannot control how we die or what it feels like. But we can talk about death and be prepared on a legal, medical and emotional level. We can provide dignity at end-of-life through an advance care planning and self-advocacy. The financial impact can be reduced by planning estates and pricing funerals. Complex decision-making and the line of where quality of life and quantity of time lived can be defined through articulating values and documenting it in an advance care directive. Wakes and/or funerals can reflect a person’s culture, spiritual beliefs and include the people we most care about. Where we lay to rest can be our choice.

By planning alongside a loved one, you provide reassurance at a time when they need it the most.

It’s love in action

The greatest gift of love you can give someone is to ensure they do not face unnecessary grief, trauma and pain as someone dies. By wanting to talk about death and plan their end-of-life experience, your loved one is saying they want to save you from needless and unnecessary pain. They want to reduce the amount indecision and stress you could face.

In an ideal world, as a person lies dying, the only thing you should be focussed on is caring for yourself and the dying person. Yet most people are torn between care and grief, paperwork, decision-making, what ifs, and family disagreements.

When someone says they want to outline how they want to be cared for and what a good death looks like to them, it’s an act of love. They are trying to reduce your grief and trauma by creating a great last impression on you, your family and those you care about.

 

Want more help with learning to talk about death? Check out our blog.

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