End of life is a fearful topic

personal decisions

Why is it so hard to talk about The End?

Dying and death are unpleasant and unsettling and often scary topics.

“Talking about dying can open a Pandora’s box of emotions and reactions that you don’t know how to handle, and you don’t want others to see.” 68 year old Ruth Handa, from the video series:’Why is it so hard to talk about dying’

Perhaps talking about dying and death can:

  • feel like it means you’re giving up
  • feel like it means you’re giving up hope

Hope means different things at different times in life. As life winds down, rather than hoping for a cure, a return of energy, or hope of living forever, hope can take on a different meaning:

  • hoping to be treated with respect
  • hoping to be comfortable
  • hoping to feel at peace
  • hoping to minimize suffering (physical, mental, spiritual)

Talking about dying can often bring back bad memories.

Thinking and planning for it now is an opportunity to make sure your Best Endings inspires good memories:

  • celebrate accomplishments
  • make sure those you love and care for and appreciate know how you feel
  • seek forgiveness
  • think about meaning and purpose of your life

Thinking about this now, when you have the opportunity to act on these things, can make a difference to you and those around you, and is an opportunity to prevent:

  • disagreements about your end of life decisions because of different understandings of your wishes
  • family/community insisting on prolonging your life because they’re not ready to let you go

Thinking, learning, talking, planning, sharing your end of life wishes is a Pay it Forward.

The good news is whether or not it’s comfortable to talk about dying and death there are studies proving prove that talking, thinking, making plans for end of life will not make the end come any faster. From Fierce Health, in plain language, results of The Journal of Hospital Medicine study:

“After studying 356 patients admitted at three different hospitals where patients had low or medium risks of dying during the next year, researchers found that having advance directive discussions didn’t increase or decrease a patient’s risk of death. There was no difference in survival rates for patients who had a living will in their medical record and those who did not.”

It may (or may not) be a comfort to know that many doctors also shy away from talking about dying and death.

To provoke thought: What worries me?

Interesting reading:When doctors don’t want to talk about death