The importance of discussing death with your loved ones

This is my first post on Medium, and some people may feel that death is a depressing topic to start with. That is the reason why I had to start with it. This post is about how we should be more comfortable talking about death with those whose death we fear the most.

Death is a topic that make many people uncomfortable to have a deep conversation about. Yet it’s something which impacts us and all of our loved ones at one point or another. We can’t escape death, and yet we seem set on not discussing it. If we were able to discuss the big questions in a comfortable setting and plan for the unexpected, could we find a more comfortable coexistence with death? Could we make the transition from life to death as peaceful as death itself?

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” – Isaac Asimov

Most people are comfortable discussing death as a general topic, or the death of people they don’t know. It’s only when it concerns a loved one that we refrain from having the necessary conversations, particularly with that person or people. Our avoidance of speaking about death originates in a variety of places, such as fear of discussing our emotions, a denial that death could happen, or even guilt.

Talking about a loved one dying of course does not make it any more probably that they will die. It simply means you care about them and you want all their wishes fulfilled if the worst were to happen. It also means you want to make the situation for them as easy as possible if you should die yourself. In fact, it is an act of love.

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Socrates

We take out life insurance to cover us financially in case of death, and we should complete that with emotional life insurance through a healthy conversation.

Our way of not talking about death impacts our emotions and our relationships. Have you ever heard someone say they wish they had told their loved one something before they passed? We choose to deal with the regret rather than engaging in a conversation.

“Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.” – Anne Frank

It is not uncommon for relationships between siblings get impacted when a parent passes without having expressed their wishes or written a will. Different opinions from everything from dividing up the estate to the funeral dress code leads to conflict at a time when the people involved are at their most vulnerable.

The kindest gift anyone can give to their loved ones is to write a will with detailed wishes and instructions before they pass. Save your loved ones from making any decisions while they are grieving.

Part of the regret and the potential conflict is preventable by being open to having a deep conversation about life and death, before someone passes. So how can we do this without sounding morbid or worrying our loved ones that we are contemplating suicide?

Recognize that the desire to discussing the topic is rooted in love for the person. Relate back to something that has happened which made you think of talking about the inevitable. Perhaps an accident you read about, or even this article. You can also tell your loved ones that you plan to, or already have, written up your own will and you intend to keep it updated regularly to make sure they will have as little as possible to worry about if you should pass away.

Some questions to get your conversation started:

  • Do you have a will, or would you be open to us getting our wills written up together?
  • Where and how would you like to be buried?
  • If you were to describe your own funeral, what would it be like?

Don’t wait until it’s too late to have some of the most important conversations with the most important people in your life. What might feel awkward at first could end up becoming one of the most precious and connecting conversations you have ever had with them.