There’s a good reason why only one in four Americans has currently documented their end of life healthcare wishes. Why roughly half of American adults don’t have even a basic will or estate plan in place.
We just don’t like to talk about death. Don’t care to think about it. Sure don’t want to admit it’s coming in our futures, even though dying is the only 100% universally guaranteed event in any life.
Do we think we can control or postpone it by not facing it and planning for it?
How crazy it is that we, as a society, manage to be repeatedly surprised and rendered speechlessly uncomfortable by something that happens to everyone?
Regardless of how we got to this place, there’s one good and simple solution: Death Positivity.
The Death Positive movement is gaining steam across the globe– official government and non-profit groups, self-organized societies and individuals making it their goal of bringing death into the light, opening up dying and deathcare for discussion and exploration and familiarization.
As a funeral planning advocate, you’d better believe I’m 100% behind what these groups are doing. Our fear of death hampers and holds us back from making good decisions based on solid research. Anything that brings death out of hiding in the back rooms and heavy parlors of funeral homes and into public awareness, to be discussed and planned for, I wholeheartedly support.
But I also think there’s a better way–our kids.
Death, like first periods and masturbation, is uncomfortable to talk about, because we as a society have never done it, and don’t have the good words stored up to do so. It’s time to break that silence, to bring death and everything around it out into the world. (You’re on your own with the other two, and good luck with that!)
As a leaping off place, Buzzfeed has compiled some real-world tips for talking to kids about death, sourced from The Sharing Place, a grief therapy outlet for kids. Some of the ideas the experts pass along include:
When someone dies, they’re not “asleep.” This could make a kid scared of her own bedtime.
It’s worth making some distinctions between different types of death and illness (especially around choosing or not choosing death, and contagious versus non-contagious deathly illnesses)
Start talking to your kids about death as soon as possible. It’s easier to explain a dead bug than a dead family member.
It’s OK to say “I don’t know.” (The experts) recommend saying something like: “I’ve never died before, so I’m not really sure. Sometimes bodies just stop working and we don’t know why.”
Death, like diapers, happens. It will happen–to you, to me, to everyone we love.
Make the commitment now to break death out of the we don’t talk about it box, and open the conversations with your family and loved ones, even if it’s scary for you. It may not be easy or comfortable at first, but the reward, especially as you open kids up to the idea and reality of death, and let them know it’s okay to talk about, will return to you in peace and calm when it’s time for you all to discuss deaths that matter within your family.