You may not know the answer to why people don’t want to talk about death and dying, but talking about it is important.
It makes sense that Americans don’t want to talk about death and dying. We are a “Deathaphobic” society and look at death as something separate from our lives that we want to keep at bay, as far away from us as possible. We avoid talking about it at all costs. And, the misnomer is we even think that if we avoid the subject we can avert the experience. HA!
We look at death as doing something “wrong,” that somehow we failed at beating the illness that was stronger than we were. We say, “Oh, she/he fought the battle and lost.” To tell you the truth, that really bothers me. It makes the person who is sick think they are weak and not living up to what others think they “should” (a word that drive me crazy… I’m a huge “should” catcher) be doing.
Boy, if that isn’t a set up, I don’t know what is. We can’t even let nature take its course without having to say something is wrong with the experience (and that brings up shame). If you think about it, it is understandable, because we believe in the myth that says, “If we talk about death and dying, it will happen to us.”
Well, guess what? Regardless if we talk about it or not… it is going to happen to all of us, one day. We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but none of us is getting out of here alive.
If you look at how we treat our elderly in this country, it also makes sense why we don’t broach the subject, but hey, wait, you guys, if you’re anything close to being a Baby Boomer, YOU are going to be one of those people, and maybe already are, so hold on to your seats, death is coming sooner rather than later, so you better pay attention.
Since we can’t avoid dying, what’s the benefit in talking about death and dying anyway? What good will it do?
Well, first of all, when we are aware that dying is an intricate part of living, we are able to accept all parts of our human experience differently, through the “soul’s perspective,” being more conscious. We can spend more time being honest of what we really feel, fear, anxiety, pain, grief, loss, etc., and navigate the human experience with more ease and grace… on the way… to the “end”.
I have the privilege of being a Certified Trainer for The Twilight Brigade, a national training organization geared to teach volunteers how to be with veterans who are dying (or anyone for that matter). Dannion Brinkley, my friend, colleague, and founder of The Twilight Brigade always says, “The biggest cause of death is birth.”
Dannion has spent over 35,000 hours bedside with people, as they have crossed that line between life and death, and is no stranger to death himself, nearly dying three times, first being struck by lightening (dead for 28 minutes) and another time being struck by lightening (yes, I know, right, what are the odds of that?) and the third time, during open heart surgery. He believes there is no death (but that is a whole other topic for another blog).
Let’s face it we are all going to die one day. Our human bodies are just designed that way. It’s nature. So now what do we do with that piece of information?
It has been my experience working with clients who are both healthy and ill, (and some of whom have died) that facing this subject of death and dying head on presents an opportunity for healing.
When we can actually, freely, openly, talk about what we may “want” at the end of our lives or how we’d like it to be, there’s a safety and comfort in just having permission to talk about it.
And, when we allow ourselves to talk about it, we deepen the quality of our lives in such a way that we get to bring honor, dignity and regard to the table, and in doing that we bring honor, dignity and regard into our own lives, right here and now, becoming more conscious of the quality of life we are living.
We don’t have to wait until the end of life to bring honor, dignity and regard. We can do that NOW.
There is no shame in dying. In fact, it’s part of being human. It’s what we signed up for. We are part of nature and everything in nature has its seasons. We know that intellectually, but in actuality, we want to deny this fact, and when we deny this fact, we lose sight of the possible peace we can make with our journey, while we are living. Does this make sense?
Instead of spending money on educating ourselves and diving into our own notions about death and dying, so we can feel that sense of peace and calm about the whole thing, we frantically spend 30% of Medicare dollars each and every year on end-of-life machinery, extending someone’s life by just two months. Two months! And, sometimes those two months are so grueling, not only for the patients, but for their families. (Again, another topic for a blog another day)
60 Minutes, reported back in 2009, that Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during those last two months of patients’ lives, which was reported as more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education. That’s a lot of money being spent on a subject we don’t want to talk about. What is wrong with this picture?
And, let’s bring us baby boomers into this picture. What do you think is going to happen in the future? Less death or more?
To quote Ian Morrison, in his article published in Hospitals & Health Networks, on March 3, 2015, “We are all going to die. And the chances are that more of us will die at an older age. By 2050, the number of people on Medicare who are 80 and older will nearly triple; the number of people in their 90’s and 100’s will quadruple.
That’s a lot of us baby boomers! Look, we can’t stop the inevitable from happening, but what we can do is embrace the notion of death as a natural part of our human experience, our birthright, bringing those beautiful qualities of honor, dignity and regard into the equation.
If you want to go deeper, click on the link below, and you will be connected to our free report, “Navigating the Dying Experience.”