Talking about death and dying can be really difficult, it is often so loaded with emotion and in some cases a fair amount of superstition that talking about it might jinx us or bring it closer; it doesn’t. Talking about death is about planning both for the individual who may be dying and for their families and friends. Talking about death is a way of communicating what you might want. Sadly, many wishes go ignored or unfulfilled due to a lack of conversations around dying.
Whilst it is normal to be fearful, there are many benefits to having conversations around death and dying. Palliative provisions often refer to a concept called a ‘good death’ that is to say ‘’… the best death that can be achieved in the context of the individuals clinical diagnosis and symptoms, as well as the specific social, cultural and spiritual circumstances, taking into consideration patient and carer wishes and professional expertise’’ (Marie Curie org). Much peace of mind can be achieved from having your wishes communicated and heard. A ‘good death’ can also help with the grieving process, having worked with many bereaved individuals I have witnessed the distress that can be experienced when the wishes of the deceased are not known. This can often contribute to a lengthy and complicated grieving process.
Conversations around death and dying are important, perhaps think about your own wishes (organ donation, type of funeral, have you got a will in place? Do your loved ones know where to find important documents?) and how you might communicate them to your loved ones or maybe there is someone whose wishes should probably be known to you … a good question to ask might be ‘’what is important to you’’?
I completed my clinical placement in a hospice and my work around death and dying naturally shone a light on my own. I talk quite openly amongst my family about my wishes (much to the teenagers’ horror) but in case memory fails them I keep a little black book in a place they will find it and I’ve written down my wishes in there. They might be glad of it one day!