by Sheri Hatfield
Death is not simply the end of living; it is part of living. Whether it is coming to terms with one’s own death or processing a loved one’s end of life, all humans encounter death. Yet in many places, especially in the United States, death continues to be a relatively taboo subject for most people. We do not speak openly about our own death, and tend to avoid the subject even when someone we know is sick and likely dying. We will talk about everything but death. Yet it is as death approaches that some people do most of their most conscious living. When a person realizes their death is near, they begin to reflect on their lives, the legacy they will or will not leave behind, making things right with friends and loved ones, and working through the spiritual and emotional aspects of death.
When faced with the imminent death of a loved one—especially after a long illness—family members also begin to process what is next. They may have spent days, weeks or even years caring for the sick and dying; being so focused on the now, they have not thought about what is next. Having a conversation about a loved one’s death before it happens allows them to begin to process their future. Having an open conversation about what their loved one wants, may help to lessen stress, relieve guilt and allow them to create their own plan for living after the death.