Following on from my earlier blog that touched on this subject, I thought it might be insightful to share with you how we view death in the western culture as I was curious to know whether many still viewed it as a taboo subject.
In medicine, the field of palliative medicine embraces the notion that the terminally ill and their families want to be involved in discussions about end-of-life, but not everyone knows when they are going to die and so it leaves many of us stunted in expressing our wishes or clearly stating what we would want and need around the end of our life. Apparently, nearly two-thirds of adults don’t have a will – that is a shocking figure! What does that say? Are they too scared to have that conversation? And what a mess it creates on many other levels (largely financial) when that person dies without a will but has assets and possessions left behind to be shared out with remaining relatives.
But it seems we are finally talking about death ….
As I researched this topic, I found that thankfully, in more recent times, our approach to dying in the western world is changing and as a society we are more receptive and open to discussing the concept of death.
It may sound bizarre for some but death cafes have started to pop up all over the world. They claim their mission is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’and operate as discussion groups rather than a grief support service – www.deathcafe.com.
I went along to one of the many regular events held in London to find out for myself. The first thing that struck me was how popular it was as there were around thirty people there. After introducing ourselves to everyone we broke off into smaller groups and the host gave us a question to discuss amongst ourselves for the next 30 mins or so before making further suggestions of other topics we may want to discuss.
None of it felt depressing, in fact, I found it to be liberating to end on the topic of how we never really tell our loved ones exactly how we would like our death to be (of course, if we get a say in it at all!) But rather how we generally shy away from discussing want we would really want in our final days or hours usually because the topic is considered ‘depressing’. For those of us who do write wills, the closest we get to it is writing an expression of wishes in conjunction with our will but that is usually a one-off – how often do we revisit it as our likes or needs change?
Ironically, I remember the detailed birth plan that I was requested to complete whilst pregnant with my son – none of that materialised! So, why don’t we have a death plan? Why does it only need to be spoken about to those in hospices when they may actually be too unwell to pass comment on it? What are we so afraid of discussing? And in my culture, I’ve never been to a funeral with a child there and I really believe that’s wrong to be hiding children from death because aren’t we then just corroborating the notion that it’s a taboo subject?
How do you feel about this topic? Do you think we should be more open about discussions on death? Should we embrace it as a normal part of life? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts ….