Open and honest conversations about death

Open and honest conversations about death

The reason some things feel uncomfortable to talk about, is that they’re not often talked about. It’s a vicious cycle, and for many of us it means that discussing death (especially our own) is still somewhat taboo. Open conversations about death can help alleviate anxiety and fear by bringing emotions into the open, and providing support and insight to manage them together. Understanding your loved one’s end-of-life wishes and preferences can give both of you comfort and peace of mind, while going further and creating a plan for end-of-life care allows for greater control and honouring of beliefs and goals. Open communication can also promote healing and closure after death, and normalising conversations about death can better prepare us for the inevitable and so help grieve, heal, and move forward positively.

1. How open conversations about death can help to ease anxiety and fear

Acknowledging our emotions, and that maybe we’re not alone in having them, is healthy. By talking openly with family, friends, and other people who are struggling with similar fears, we can gain insight that helps us manage our own feelings more effectively. Recognising how talking to others can release some of the tension associated with death, asking meaningful questions like “What was most important to you in life?” can allow us to see the positives of our mortality while giving a greater appreciation for life. These cathartic conversations also open us up to the fact that we have a lot in common as people. We’re able to share experiences and fears with each other, creating a sense of comfort knowing that we’re not alone.

2. The benefits of having a clear understanding of your loved one’s end-of-life wishes and preferences

Through having these conversations, instead of facing the unfamiliar, and dealing with our emotions alone, having a clear understanding of exactly what our loved ones wanted in their final days can give us and everyone else involved in the decision-making process greater assurance and peace. There are unavoidable questions when things don’t go as planned or there’s no prearranged plan, but having some guidelines on end-of-life wishes can provide direction for family and healthcare providers. Ultimately, it will give you a greater sense of appreciation knowing that the end was both honoured and celebrated as your loved one intended. Want to read more on “How to make sure your wishes get carried out”? Click here.

3. The role of open communication in promoting healing and closure after the death of a loved one

Open communication is often essential for end of life preparation, as well as providing much-needed healing and closure after the death of a loved one. Having a network of supportive friends and family who are able to share concerns, fears and emotions can help to soothe the severe grief that follows the end of someone’s life. Through communication, people are able to come together in order to tell stories, share memories and support each other through this difficult time. This open dialogue creates an environment of understanding, which can be beneficial for those coping with death. Additionally, talking about their loved one with other people who were close to them can help give relatives closure as they find out more about their life and what they meant to others.

4. Normalising conversations about death and making it a regular topic of discussion in your family or social circle

The more used to something we are, the more comfortable we are with it happening. Death has long been seen as an unsuitable or impolite topic, and that holds us back. Normalising end-of-life conversations among family and friends has the potential to make a difficult situation much easier, by allowing us to be better prepared for death when it happens. These conversations can help us develop our understanding of death as it relates to our own lives and those of people close to us, especially children who are exposed to end-of-life conversations from observing how adults react to death. Talking honestly about death should be seen as an opportunity to better prepare ourselves for thingslike funeral services, cremation proceedings, or end-of-life decisions generally – allowing us all to continue living our lives positively whatever comes our way. A similar post on “How to start conversations about death and dying” can be found here.