There are not many things in our life that we can count on happening for sure except death and taxes. We know the exact date that our taxes are due, however we do not know when we will have to deal with death. Not knowing the date allows us to carry on in our daily routines with a sense of denial. Consequently, we have a totally different relationship with death and taxes and our society approaches these two often dreaded events in very different ways.
We prepare for April 15th throughout the whole year. It is not uncommon to keep in mind how our daily activities will affect our taxes. We may be aware of what purchases are deductible, save receipts, and have a good filing system. We may talk to colleagues about their approach, take classes on how to best prepare for filing, and hire an accountant or CPA to help us understand the current laws and fill out the paperwork. We want to be ready for this yearly event so as to lessen our fears and have the best outcome.
Now let’s consider how our society prepares for death, the other inevitable event. We rarely prepare or talk about death. Often when I tell someone that I am a grief therapist, they have an odd sad look and change the subject quickly so as not to deal with the “eerie” topic. In some cultures death is a part of life, freely talked about. In our past history, it was not uncommon for loved ones to be laid to rest in the family living room involving all members of the family. Children saw death as a part of life. Our society tends to shield our children from the reality of death and dying so when we are adults the biggest emotion around the topic of death is fear. If we saw death our whole life as a part of the cycle of life, we may have a more peaceful relationship to death.
Have you made practical preparations such as advanced directives, wills/ trusts, and end of life arrangements as diligently as you prepare your taxes? If we were aware of death as a part of life, might we live our lives with more awareness and appreciation? Talking with others about our beliefs and concerns around death, may lessen our fears.
I have many clients who have told me they regret never having talked about death with their deceased loved one. They did not have conversations about the practical as well as emotional elements of death with their family. I have often heard, “If only I had asked them…”,
“ I wish I had paid attention to what they wanted to talk about when they were ill instead of being in such denial”. As I write this, I think of all the things I would like to say to my loved ones…but it’s hard. I get that. But maybe if we are reminded of it more often, we will become more aware and comfortable with this most important element of life. Just because we do not know the deadline, we can still be prepared.
So let’s talk about death! Let’s have candid conversations about our concerns, fears and beliefs around death and dying. Let’s lessen the “I wish I would haves” after a loved one has passed.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, “Fear does not stop death; it stops life.” And talking about our fears lessens the impact on our lives and empowers us to live a more purposeful, mindful life.
On Friday May 9th , Linda Mastrangelo and I are hosts for Santa Clara’s first Death Cafe, a free event that provides a relaxed, fun and informal atmosphere in which to come together as a community to talk about death and dying. It is an open format, a place in which to explore and share your beliefs and concerns around death and dying. It is not a grief support or counseling session. Participants often leave the Death Cafe learning more about life than death.
If you are interested in this international topic of Death Cafes see more at http://deathcafe.com or the article in the San Jose Murcury News http//www.mercurynews.com/bay-arealiving/ci_24918825/death-cafe-talk-about-dying-and-eat-cake
I invite you to “Drink tea, eat cake and discuss death”.