Death and dying are not popular dinner topics. In fact, there are few circumstances in which society considers it to be appropriate to talk about our mortality.
Usually, we wait until something tragic happens, like losing a loved one, before we bring our feelings into the open. This is a shame because, in reality, talking about death and dying can help you to get more from life.
Life after 60 is full of questions. What is the purpose of my life now that my kids have left the house? How should I give back to the world so that my grandkids have something to inherit? How can I keep myself healthy so that I can avoid the many age related illnesses? What will happen to me after I die? For that matter, what will happen to those I love after I die?
These are just a few of the many questions that swim through our minds as we get a little older. I’m sure that you have asked yourself more than a few of these over the years.
Death and dying are not just religious or philosophical topics. Many of us worry about practical considerations, such as how our family will survive without us. Others are concerned about their legacy. Still others simply don’t want their funerals to be stressful for those left behind. And, yes, there are the big questions too – metaphysical questions that keep us up at night.
I recently sat down with Claire Henry, who is CEO of the U.K. based National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC). Her organization is taking the conversation about hospice and palliative care to another level. They help with practical aspects of palliative care, but, they also want to make it acceptable to talk about death and dying. Enjoy the interview.
Another organization that I recently investigated is the Death Café group. Death cafes are informal meetings, where people come together to talk about death and dying. I haven’t been to one yet, but, I plan on doing so the next time I’m in the U.K. I’m sure that they would be open to people starting Death Café events in the U.S. too.
Many women in the Sixty and Me community are caregivers. For these women, questions about death and dying are natural – as are the many practical considerations that they are asked to help with. They are helping to plan funerals, helping their loved ones to get their affairs in order and providing emotional support.
Even if you aren’t a caregiver, there are plenty of reasons to get comfortable talking about death. The most important of these is that talking about death and dying helps you to live a better life.
For starters, coming to terms with our mortality helps us to realize just how little time we have left on this amazing planet. What passions do you want to explore? What things have you left unsaid? What wonderful places do you want to see? What would your biggest regrets be if you died today? These are just a few of the many questions that show how important death-related conversations can be.
Talking about death also helps us to identify points of stress that we can deal with. Have you thought about planning your own funeral to reduce the stress on your loved ones? Would you like to potentially save a life by becoming an organ donor? Is writing a legacy letter appealing to you? Don’t be afraid of these questions, or shy away from them.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that talking about death puts things in perspective. It helps you to treasure every moment.
It may also inspire you to do wonderful things. For example, Claire once drove a tank, an activity that had been on her bucket list for some time. Come to think of it, I’d actually love to drive an 18-wheeler at some point. I guess it’s a power thing! Or maybe, I’ll just settle for learning tango in Buenos Aires. What will YOU do?
Now is the time to live your life any way you want. Try new foods in exotic places. Make an apology. Write a letter to a long-lost family member. Adopt a pet. Come to terms with your mortality and get motivated to live.
Do you think that talking about death can be a healthy experience? Why or why not? Have you ever been a caregiver? What did you learn from the experience? Please join the conversation.