We've got to talk about death. Yet, death is a topic that most people don't want to talk about. Earlier in our dating years, Bigbad thought it a bit taboo when my family brought up the conversation at the dinner table. My family has always been rather upfront about the topic. Now, I get the impression Bigbad isn't as shocked or alarmed when the discussions come about. They are always handled tactfully and with great love.
The entirety of grief is painful, and so perhaps we collectively prefer to postpone those emotions until they are absolutely necessary. I get that, but I also suspect that delaying the emotional process allows it to become a devastating chasm of suffering.
Most of what I write is from the perspective of the observer. I have been fortunate to celebrate as my grandparents' enter their 80's. I have two parents still living and at home. But even though they are a lively bunch, I am the witness to their dying. So this viewpoint is of one who is entering her adulthood with the awareness that her parents and grandparents are aging (some faster than others), and it could be a quick descent or it could be a prolonged process of age and sickness.
|Good Lord how my grandfather can smize. Love him. I took this photo after reading the article linked below|
I don't want to come across as perfectly at peace and accepting of the death process. The Rocker (my dad) is dying. He's been dying for several years. There are lots of good days. I define good days as days he seems energetic (plays his guitar), days when he jokes around, days when he just seems lazy rather than sick, days when I forget that he's dying. And there are bad days. Bad days put you on edge and make you anxious that at any moment that will be the one we'll dial 911 to get an ambulance. Bad days age you with gray hairs. Bad days are nights of half finished dinners. Bad days are unpredictable and unscheduled. Bad days are fear and embarrassment over what might happen. Bad days knock the wind out of you. Bad days suck. I don't want to downplay that.
My point is that it's hard. And I think the silence about the suffering of watching parents die makes it harder. Sure, it can be awkward, and I still don't know what to say to several friends who have lost their parents. Nothing can be said that will alleviate their personal pain. That loss still hurts painfully. But my philosophy is that if society and community were more apt to discuss death, then there would be a greater collective healing and closure.
Talking about any subject usually helps assuage some of my anxiety, and death is no exception to this rule. I don't look forward to my death or that of my loved ones, but I don't have tremendous worries about dying. For everything there is a season.
I wanted to share this video and some information I came across because this pre-death is a universal condition we're all diagnosed with. We all think there will be more time. We may try to ignore conversations or reality. And since I can't always find the right words that will be the balm and because I can't be with all of my friends and offering hugs and support, I just want to share what I can.
- Plan for death and talk about it with those you love: See TED video above and this article and this interview with advice for how to initiate some of the conversation.
- Talk with your siblings about your parents aging: Past rivalries and grievances might flare up during the discussion about caregiving for aging parents, this Slate article talks about mediation for the siblings' disputes.
- Create a death dossier: I saw this on Pinterest early on, but it's a great help to organize your information for your loved ones.
- Art can bring clarity to your life: Candy Chang's talk about how her art projects helps us to understand how "thinking about death brings clarity to our life." This article has tips for photographing elderly loved ones and the importance of having their image.
- Consider the rituals of death when you lose someone: This NY Times article takes a look at different death rituals and customs across spiritual and religious beliefs. Great to consider even as a non-believer of faith.
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