- Happiness

Uncomfortable Truth – Death

So another year begins, and I’ll be another year older – you, too!

Wear and tear on my body is most evident.

My left  knee is, “a mess,” according to  my doctor, after reviewing the results of my MRI, “I’ve forwarded your file to an orthopedic surgeon.”

Surgery. Yikes!

It seems the reason that I have to pause (because of pain), then move, every time I get up from a seated position is because I’ve got a tendon that needs “work,” and my meniscus is once again, torn – this, after knee arthroscopy 12 years ago.

Needless to say, these days my mind is occupied with wondering about my destiny.

My death, in particular.

I’ve done much research on this not so pleasant topic, so allow me to share my findings.

Most people do not think about end-of-life planning unless they are forced to. It seems so far away when you’re young and vital and unless there is a grim reminder, it feels unnecessary. It sort of feels like something you do when you are older but each day you grow older you just don’t seem to feel old… yet.

Thinking of end-of-life matters can feel uncomfortable and cause some anxiety. It isn’t common to think about the end of life when it seems so far off.

Planning for retirement might feel more comfortable because the thought of spending time doing the things you love – rather than working towards retiring – is exciting and rewarding after a long career; however, it’s just as important to think about and plan for the inevitable winding down of life.

There’s no easy way to think about death or even an illness or accident. It’s much easier to think about being vital and healthy.

Focusing on health is important. Doing the things you can to stay healthy – like eating right, exercising, and keeping a healthy mindset, meditation – is sure to help keep you fit and focused on a great life. Not thinking about end-of-life matters won’t make the inevitable any easier or make it go away.

One thing we all have in common is we are going to pass away – we just don’t know when or how. It’s life’s biggest personal mystery.

End-of-life planning matters because there are many things you can do to make things easier for yourself and your family. There are steps you can take to be ready if/when you face an accident, an illness, or your life ends. Many people are afraid to “tempt fate” or “bring about what you think about.” These are immature ways of looking at a very mature subject.

End-of-life planning isn’t just about your funeral. It’s about important aspects of living such as:

  • Protecting your assets
  • Having important medical documents if you are unable to communicate
  • Having income for retirement, illness, or long-term care
  • Communicating your wishes with others
  • Pre-need funeral planning

It might feel strange thinking about or taking action regarding end-of-life matters but, like anything else, the more you engage in the tasks, the easier and more natural they will feel.

But, before you know it, speaking to professionals about your needs and sharing the information with your family will feel a lot less odd and a lot more responsible – something to be proud of.

Don’t let the fear of the unknown and the morbid aspects of end-of-life planning scare you.

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Make End-of-Life Plans

“The idea is to die young as late as possible”– Ashley Montagu

You are never too young or too old to make end-of-life plans.

Your planning may vary or change in depth over time, but it’s never too early or too late to talk about such things. Generally, something triggers a chat about the end of life.

  • An accident in your community
  • A loved one dies suddenly
  • Someone you know has a terminal diagnosis

Things like this spark conversations because they are close to home. It’s a reminder – gentle or shocking – that we are not immortal.

Here are some tips I found for talking about end-of-life planning no matter what your age.

  1. Talking with children: Children pass away. It’s an undeniable yet grim fact. Your child may have been touched directly by the passing of a friend or classmate or your child may have been given a diagnosis that could result in their death. Under the right circumstances, having a conversation about end-of-life plans may be right for your child.
  2. Ask open-ended questions that get your child thinking: You can ask about mature-themed issues in a way that is child-friendly and age-appropriate. It’s alright to ask about how your child would want to be buried or remembered during a memorial. Use this time to educate your child about the reality that everyone dies and that it is a natural part of living.
  3. Talking with teens: Chances are greater that your teen will know someone who has passed unexpectedly. Teens can be emotional about death, especially of friends their age. The developmental stage of tween and teen life can elevate emotions and intensify reactions to death. This shouldn’t diminish the importance of tackling the issue head-on.
  4. Be open and honest: With your teen about your feelings about dying, death, and what your perspectives are. Ask for their thoughts and compare and contrast your beliefs. Seek to understand and come to conclusions about what your teen wants and how they feel about important issues like organ donation, life support, and what quality of life means to them.
  5.  Talking with adults: From your spouse or siblings to your aging parents, there is a wide range of ages in adulthood. Talking about end-of-life plans will vary based on who you are engaging and what role they play. Everyone is different and some people are more resistant to talking about end-of-life plans. Regardless, there are decisions that need to be made.
  6. Don’t blindside anyone with a talk about tough issues: Prep and plan to have a discussion. Do your best to decide what medical consents your family member agrees to and who will make decisions if they can’t. Make decisions about the types of burial or cremation they consent to and talk frankly about costs and how they will be met.

Part of what makes talking about death scary is your attitude about it. The easier you approach the subject, the easier it is to talk about it. You are never too young to begin thinking about how you want to be supported medically and cared for when you die.

Get Comfortable Talking About Uncomfortable Things

There are things you generally don’t talk about in polite company- politics and religion top the list. Being considerate about tricky topics is a good thing. I’ve found that avoiding uncomfortable things helps me feel at uneasy, but sometimes you have to get comfortable talking about uncomfortable things.

Talking about death, dying, and making plans might feel morbid but it is a necessary part of living. Being able to share your thoughts about things like:

  • What sort of care you consent to in the event of an accident or injury
  • If you want to be revived or kept on life support
  • Where you want to live in the event you can’t live at home
  • Who should make medical or other decisions on your behalf if you are unable
  • Your thoughts on funeral planning and burial options, Aand more

One of the reasons it’s so hard to talk about uncomfortable things is the feeling there is little control. The truth is, if you do not have plans in place, you’ll have very little control but if you do have plans in place, much of your care and aftercare is well within your control. All the more reason to have tough talks!

How To Get Comfortable Talking About Uncomfortable Things

Do your homework– The more you know about a subject, the less uncomfortable it is. There’s nothing you can’t learn about any subject connected to the legal, financial, and medical aspects of end-of-life care. Educate yourself and you will be well-equipped to have intelligent and easier talks about the subjects.

Prepare your audience – If you are going to have an uncomfortable discussion, prepare your family or friends beforehand. Don’t blindside someone with a tough talk they may not be emotionally ready for. Instead, give them time to get ready and be mentally prepared to absorb what you need to share.

Practice – The more often you talk about uncomfortable things, the easier it will be. Start with professionals like clergy, medical staff, or attorneys before chatting with family or friends. Practicing your conversation will help you find the best words to use as well as become more comfortable speaking them.

Some conversations are going to be tough no matter what. Being able to speak about uncomfortable things more comfortably helps those who depend on you feel safer and more prepared to help when the time comes. Get comfortable by doing your homework, prepping your audience, and practicing your conversation beforehand.

Be brave and do what it takes to plan ahead so you and your family are prepared and ready when your start to face end-of-life issues.

I hope that has helped you to reduce any fears you may have surrounding your end-of-life planning.

“It’s not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life.
It’s part of the deal we made.”
―€• Mitch Albom

Meditation is a habit that may come easily to some. I have been meditating for over five years, but there were many days I found myself slipping. These days, not so much, not since I completed the no-cost Action Habits Challenge by Connie Ragen Green, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur. You can check it out here.

If you’re interested in revitalizing your life through meditation and would like to learn a virtually risk-free, and cost-effective practice, that people of all ages can do with a little patience and guidance and that will serve you for the rest of your life, I would love to connect with you. You can connect with me here.

I’m Donna SLam, who loves to blog about how meditation brings self-compassion, peace of mind, and clarity to my life and others by sharing tips and strategies on how to live a fulling and purposeful life. I enjoy championing others to lead a healthy and happy life through meditation, walking, self-development, and spending time with loved ones.

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4 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Truth – Death

  1. My parents have always refused to have those difficult conversations.
    Now my mother is 97 and my father. Is 95 they’re both having health challenges and refusing to acknowledge them.
    I have power of attorney for both my parents and also complete health control as they prepared all the legal forms about 10 years ago but have never given me any instructions or details about their end of life care. I have no idea whether they want a traditional burial or a cremation ceremony.
    Not having that difficult conversation with them when they were healthier and able to live on their own terms has become a nightmare for me in these later years, although I don’t know what I could have done differently.

    1. Hi Lauren,
      You are not alone, your situation is very common.
      Many of us, who were brought up in that generation, were never encouraged to discus difficult topics, much less – Death!
      It’s a generational “thing.”
      Please don’t anguish over it or blame yourself.
      When that time comes, you will do right for both of your parents.
      Follow your heart!

  2. Thanks for this post Donna.
    Great information (and a kick in the seat) as I have a birthday coming up!
    And then I read Lauren’s reply. Thanks for sharing Lauren.
    I’m going to work to do right by my family ahead of time.

    1. Hi Tom,
      Never an ideal time or topic to discus with loved ones.
      Sometimes, it takes time, patience and perseverance to get your loved one(s) onside.
      You’re half way there, just thinking about it.
      You can do it!

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