Death, why don't we talk about it?

I wrote this on my personal facebook page regarding the recent death of my husband and how it’s been for me these last few months, “if I can get others to talk about death with their significant other and be more aware of what they may face down the road, than it was worth sharing how my journey goes. As others have said, it truly is an individual journey and no two are the same. But, I think having the conversations while both are still here would make that road a little lighter for the one left behind.”

And my good friend asked, “any guidance on how to start this conversation and what to say?”

Here are my thoughts.

Throughout this time of grieving I have often thought about how we don’t prepare ourselves. We all know that, one day, we will find ourselves facing this, but yet we don’t talk about it. We talk about life, we talk about birth, we talk about everything under the sun, but we avoid any discussion about death. And if you are one who tries to talk about death, you probably get the “don’t be morbid” lecture. At least we avoid it as much as possible, or we wait until one happens and we have to talk about it. The strange thing is, that from the moment we are born, we begin the dying process. Dying is as much a part of living, as being born. No one escapes it, let’s talk about it!

If you are a part of a loving relationship, where each of you consider yourselves to be “soulmates” or each other’s “other half”, the chances are that one will pass before the other. It is rare that two will pass at the same time. So, one of you will lose that “other half”. How will life be without your other half there to comfort, to talk with and to share everything with?
When my husband passed away, it quickly dawned on me that I had spent the rest of his life with him, but that he would not be spending the rest of my life with me (which was the plan!). And while we did make wills and we talked about what each should do, if something were to happen to the other, we did not talk about how it would be for the one left behind or what we thought about it all. Create a will? Check! Funeral arrangements, or none? Check! Services or none? Check! How to dispose of the remains? Check! How life will be for the one still on earth? Nada!

So, why is it that we don’t talk about it? I’ve even tried to talk to my friends about the most minimal of death things, creating a will and I just get avoidance or resistance. Most likely because to talk about creating a will, one must think or talk about death. The subject that we would all most like to avoid, but cannot avoid it actually taking place. And I am not talking about “how” it will happen, because actually how it takes place does not matter. What matters is how will life be for the one left here.

Would it be comforting to know what your significant other's desires are for you, if you should be the person left behind? I think so. I know we could all generalize what a person would “want” for another, but it’s not the same as a discussion for those actually involved. A simple statement like, “You know I am going to miss you terribly when you are gone”, might start a conversation. Or, “if I should pass before you, I hope that you will continue to enjoy life for as long as you live”, might be nice to hear. Starting a conversation can be as simple as saying, “you know that the likelihood is that we will not both die at the same time, maybe we could talk about our feelings about that.” You might be surprised what the other has to say (or not). We discuss all our big decisions and situations in life, shouldn’t we talk about the biggest situation to come? We talk about the beginning, we talk about the middle, shouldn’t we talk about the end?

I know that approaching the subject at all, is not easy. But I think it is important enough that everyone at least try. Being the one “left behind” is hard, it’s painful and it will be the worst time in your life. Some of the little things that have comforted me have been the notes, cards and little letters that my husband left behind (thankfully, I have lots of those). But how much better would it have been had we merely just talked about our feelings about life after death for the one left here? I think it would have been infinitely better. So, my suggestion to you, is just try to have those conversations now, while you can, because you never know when you will not have that option.    KJ @ KJ-isms

Education leads to understanding. Understanding leads to tolerance. Tolerance leads to acceptance.  KJ 

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