The Conversation Part 2

Though it may seem daunting to start a conversation about death, it is helpful to know the benefits of doing so.

Man unwell in bed looking at doctor

NOT to bring up the subject of death creates tension between people, even if they are usually close. It also increases fear, sadness, loneliness and anxiety. As well, if no one brings up the subject of death, you may not know if the person who is dying really understands the situation. It can be hard to know what to say and then this can create a barrier between you. [1]

Such a conversation enables the patient (and their family and friends) to come to terms with the reality. This is perhaps especially significant for those of us who use all situations for inner growth.

Spiritually, the transformation in consciousness has the opportunity to begin in earnest only after the stage of acceptance.’ [2]

The patient can consider how they want to live the time remaining to them, including considering how realistic any further treatment may be. They can also discuss, with doctor, family and/or friends, options regarding where they would like to live and be cared for; the feasibility of choosing any of those options and the financial aspect of continued care.

In addition, there are certain measures to be put in place, as needed, such as a Will, Advance Decision, and Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. If not included in the Advance Decision, a note can be made of how the dying person would like their body dealt with – for example, through cremation or burial and any related requests.

Coming to terms with the end of one’s life is a very big psychological process; it’s overwhelming. I think that unless we [doctors] start talking with patients about it and give them time to come to terms with that and work it out within their own thoughts and feelings, with their own loved ones and so on I think it’s really hard for patients to go from focusing on treatment, and maybe even cure, to focusing on death in a moment. [3]

Discussing dying can help everyone – patient, family and friends – to become closer. This sense of intimacy can be a great support for all concerned and minimises the possibility of the dying person becoming anxious and depressed. It is known through research that not talking about a fear actually increases it.

The patient and loved ones have the possibility to attend to any ‘unfinished business’; to express all that they want to say to each other, which might include voicing regrets, giving and receiving apologies and forgiveness, recalling past experiences together and expressing gratitude. Such a sharing supports both the dying person and those connected with him or her in having a certain sense of completion.

See How to have the conversation

See also Benefits of Befriending Death




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