Though death might seem ubiquitous in today’s society -we are surrounded by images of it in newspapers, on television, in films and video games, and most people will have experienced the loss of at least one close friend or family member- the old D word remains a thorny topic that we generally avoid talking about.
While this has a pronounced effect on how we deal with death psychologically and emotionally, it can also impact on the more practical aspects of preparing for the passing of a loved one. Although it can be difficult to talk about funeral plans and end of life wishes, doing so ensures that you’re ready for the eventuality of death and that the individual in question is remembered in the way they would like to be. Broaching the subject of death can be tricky, but it is something that should definitely be discussed at one stage or another.
Why it’s important to talk about end of life wishes
Besides the more personal, emotional reasons for beginning to discuss the issue of death, there’s a number of practical reasons for doing so too. For most people, it’s important to know that their loved one’s final wishes will be respected and that any funeral service reflects their character and honours the role they played in people’s lives. A large part of this involves ensuring that all practical considerations have been taken care of and that nothing stands in the way of delivering the funeral they deserve and desire. In this regard, researching funeral plans, or discussing the matter with funeral directors, drawing up a will and taking note of any particular last wishes, can ease the burden of grief and provide some peace of mind. Funeral plans in particular can ease both the emotional and financial pressure of arranging a funeral.
How to talk about death
While knowing why it’s important to openly discuss death is one thing, actually doing so is another matter entirely. How you go about raising the subject will depend on your personal circumstances, but there are a number of different approaches you can take. Whichever way you choose, it’s important to remember not to force the issue if the individual in question is uncomfortable talking about their own mortality.
Some families have a relationship that allows them to talk directly and openly about such matters, making it a great deal easier to discuss the practicalities of funeral plans and end of life wishes. In such a case, you may be able to talk about it whenever you feel it most appropriate. This could be a one on one chat or it may include all those involved in the planning process or close to the individual. This ensures that you don’t have to keep bringing up the issue in conversation and it prevents anyone from feeling left out of the planning process.
In other contexts, it may be more difficult to talk about end of life wishes without the assistance of a prompt or a reason for doing so. In this case, you could try to casually raise the subject in relation to another death – perhaps that of a relative, friend or celebrity, or even a character in a TV show or film. By talking about someone else’s death, it’s easier to ask less direct questions such as ‘have you ever thought about what you would like to happen when you pass?’ By beginning by talking about someone else, you make the discussion less about their mortality and more about death in general, giving you an opportunity to have a more relaxed and informal conversation that may make the process easier.
Finally, it’s a good idea to remember that it’s often a great deal easier to have these conversations sooner rather than later. While it’s not always possible, talking about death when it’s a more distant concept is far less frightening than when confronted with it as a close and realistic proposition. By starting early, you give yourself more time to discuss end of life wishes, prepare for the eventuality of death, and make it easier to broach the topic with a loved one.