Have you had “THE TALK” yet?

Advanced Planning | 0 comments


When death comes to find you, may it find you alive.  -African Proverb
THE TALK is not the birds and bees talk we wait with bated breath to have with our children, but the death talk. The conversation about your wishes and preferences at your death. We all hope to have a good death, yet we struggle to talk about what that looks, sounds, and feels like with those we love and can advocate for our wishes. 
Death – along with taxes – is one of life’s few certainties. Despite this inevitability, most people dread thinking and talking about when, how, or under what conditions they might die. – Deborah Karr
The human mind has a tendency to rationalize and procrastinate when confronting emotionally distressing situations. Fear of death is commonly one of those topics, and it is normal to want to avoid it. Many people fear it will make their loved ones sad or depressed or bring up feelings of regret or guilt. While that may happen, it’s still important to discuss.
When I bring up the topic of end-of-life wishes with my friends (after all, what are friends for?), their reactions vary. Some of them think it’s too morbid to discuss, while others have already put their wishes in writing. One friend used a planner called “I’m Dead, Now What” to start a conversation with her daughter. And then others prefer to let the chips fall where they may.
I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. – Woody Allen
For many, the dying process is feared more than death. This is the great unknown and is associated with pain, protracted suffering, and sadness stemming from past experiences or the lasting impressions portrayed by Hollywood. Of course, we don’t want our loved ones to die, but contrary to popular belief, discussing death doesn’t make it happen. Instead, it can provide comfort and relief for ourselves and others and even change how we approach life.
So why do we wait?
We aren’t taught how to speak about grief or death, resulting in a death-denying culture. The stories we carry about death, dying, and grief are subtle and often unconscious to us, impacting our language, beliefs, and behaviors. I call that our Death Language.  Despite popular belief, death is not an option. Our country’s report card is less than stellar surrounding death and grief literacy. In one research study, 75% of Americans say they want to die at home, but only 25% do. I realize this outcome is multi-factorial and deserves more discussion, but the lack of pre-planning is a considerable contributor. We can do better. 
If how we die is the most important conversation America is NOT having, what can be done?
We can normalize conversations about death, dying, and grief. Initially, it requires some vulnerability to put our fears out there or share our stories, but bit by bit, with each conversation, uneasiness is replaced by caring, loving, and honest conversations about our wishes.
Keep it simple and authentic. This is not an interrogation; it is a gift. Ultimately, you want to learn more about what matters to you and your loved one as it lays the foundation for understanding what is truly meaningful to them and you.
Put a little life into those after-dinner conversations, birthday, or anniversary celebrations, as they are perfect opportunities to share life’s important bits. Consider using a conversation starter…
  • What is something you are proud of?
  • What do you value most in life?
  • What has given your life meaning?
  • What beliefs and values have guided you?
  • What is one thing that changed the way you lived?
  • What brings you joy?
A conversation among loved ones, friends, and even strangers brings “THE TALK” into mainstream culture and empowers us to ask for what we want in life and death.
Create a ripple, one conversation at a time. 
Find additional curated resources on this topic at https://caroleheaney.com/healing-press/

Upcoming Creating Ripples Workshops

Kitchen Table Talks: It’s FREE! Join us monthly from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. EST for connection, conversation, and community to talk about all things life, death, and grief.
  • What challenges are you facing in caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness?
  • Do you have questions or concerns about creating advanced directives?
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  • We are all touched by grief.

  • We are all changed by grief.

  • We all experience grief uniquely.
  • Grief is natural.

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I look forward to connecting with you soon.
Love and peace,