Let’s not be Afraid of Death and Let’s not Be Afraid to Talk about It
Often times in life when we meet those milestones like getting married or having children we start thinking about being more responsible. We might decide at that point to take out life insurance and write a Last Will so that the people left behind will be able to take care of funeral expenses and dispose of our earthly goods with ease, and for the most part do it in the way we desire.
I think its a very important decision. But I don’t think we should wait for those moments. If I was giving advice on the subject I would suggest that when a child turns 18 years of age, or whatever is considered the age of majority wherever you live, that is the time to discuss a Will. Life insurance is something I recommend at the birth of a child, so that in the event of a death the parents can focus on the grieving process rather than the costs of a funeral. I don’t work for insurance companies, but I have been through enough funerals to know that having those kinds of arrangements made in advance create much more ease in the process.
Dealing with a funeral is never going to be easy, whether its unexpected or expected. If you are unsure of costs, or how you are going to pay for it, that adds to the stress and can for the most part be alleviated by preparation.
The other part of this process that I think is key, is to be able to acknowledge that death happens to us all. Many of us realize the importance of a Will and Insurance when we are the parents, or have a dependent, because we have been taught that death of parents first is the normal process. But in reality death is really quite random. No age is exempt. You can be a day old, or 103 yrs old or anywhere before or after those dates, or anywhere in between. There really is no rule. I think we just wish there was a hard and fast rule.
5 years ago on March 15, 2012 I did not expect to be visited by the R.C.M.P. in the early morning hours to advise me that my oldest son had been killed in a vehicle accident. 5 young people were in that one vehicle, when it rolled out of control. Three were killed and 2 miraculously survived. Not one of the parents expected this outcome. It wasn’t part of the plan. And it never is part of the plan.
The thing about life on this planet is that it’s unpredictable. We don’t know the exact moment of our birth, usually and we rarely know the exact moment of our death. What we do know is that births happen everyday and so do deaths. Many people will not talk about death, they find it too morbid, or creepy or overwhelming, yet they will take their children to horror movies, or watch violent movies on television. Real death can be violent, it can be peaceful, it can be sudden or linger for months. I think we do a disservice to our children by not discussing death as a part of life. Perhaps if we allowed more discussion around it, we would see less violence in real life and less war perhaps.
I think we came to planet earth to explore it all, joy, pain, struggle and experience our feelings about all of it. When we numb ourselves from that we really are missing out. When we do not allow children to know that sorrow of loss is inevitable and allow open discussion, we are not preparing them for life. When we try to pretend that violence is glorious or war is an adrenaline rush without pain, real pain, we avoid truth. I’m not suggesting we saturate children in pain, however I am suggesting we talk about death just as we talk about any other part of life. It can be a very beautiful moment, when it is our time to transition. I do believe the more prepared we are for it, including some kind of spiritual understanding, the more ease we’ll experience in our own death and in the death of loved ones.
Contemplation of our death, loved one’s death or even a pet is certainly worth the exploration. In my experience it is the ‘not talking’ about the subject that creates fear. Healthy discussion around where we are going to go after this life adds to the dimensions of this lifetime. I think many people have fear about the transition process because there are so many fearful beliefs that have been passed down through traditions, religion etc. and many are used to manipulate and control us in this lifetime. I recommend exploring those beliefs and especially to discuss them openly with our children. Children can be influenced by media or conversations they hear, when a parent is not around and in many cases they may have questions about the subject but are afraid to ask.
Leaving our body and leaving our loved ones behind, I suspect is easier on the one leaving than the ones left behind; with the exception of those who have a fear of dying. But I do believe that in opening a dialogue with our children and even parents who have never discussed it with us in the past, is a good step towards making the transition process a little easier to deal with. It will not prevent the pain of loss, or buffer anyone from shock in accidental death, but I do think when we’ve had the discussion, prepared a Will and ensure our wishes are expressed, it can make that part of the process a bit easier.
Simple questions like, ‘do you want a funeral or to be buried or cremated?’ are excellent questions. Asking about what they’d like done with their possessions is an important question and another reason for a Last Will to be written. This applies to anyone over the age of 18 yrs, but having the discussion with younger children could be part of a greater conversation about life and death. Unfortunately I have seen too many people who are suspicious if children ask about who is getting what possessions. Sometimes the parent thinks they want them to die in order to get those possessions. My personal thought on this is, it has more to do with the parent’s fear of death and losing control of those possessions, than it does the perceived child’s greed or selfishness in asking. But again these are common situations because we have so much taboo around this subject. In many cultures its still taboo to talk about the birthing process too, or other bodily functions but that silence or denial about real life circumstances and events only adds to the stress and fear, in my opinion.
For me, talking about death is an easy subject, but I know it is not like that for everyone. I’ve had to deal with a lot of it in my life from a very early age and it is not that I got ‘used’ to it, but rather that it forced me to explore it as part of life and not something we can avoid.
As I remember this rather sad day in my and my family’s life, I also focus a great deal on the positive memories I have of his life with us on the planet. I don’t try to pretend I’m happy when I’m not, but I also don’t stay stuck in that sorrow for long. When I think of my son Ryan, I think only joyful thoughts. I miss him in the physical, but I know he’s exploring in the non-physical and that’s just fine, until we meet again.
I hope this information I’ve shared tonight will at least give you a little nudge to think about the topic. It does in fact happen to us all, eventually. Remember this, most people cannot read your mind in life, so the chances that they’ll know what you wanted in death are going to be just as vague if you do not tell them. So write a Will and be clear as to your burial wishes, your possession distributions and if at all possible either have life insurance of the funds to pay for your own funeral. Those are gifts your family will be incredibly grateful for!
Best wishes for a long, prosperous, happy and healthy life to all of you!