I was sitting with a colleague the other day who in mid-conversation said something about the “D” word. It was amusing for the two of us, we looked at each other almost immediately and laughed. It seems society has so ingrained the taboo treatment of the topic of death, that even for us, healthcare professionals and people invested in creating a climate of better death, occasionally we still stumble when saying the word “Death”.
One of the best bumper stickers I’ve ever seen says: “Death, talking about it won’t kill you”. It is the truth, you can’t catch it, I promise! Talking about death however, can be a lot more uplifting and positive than one might think. Almost every time I meet with others in a Death Cafe or to discuss what I do, I walk away feeling uplifted. I suppose it sounds odd if you’ve never tried it, maybe you should!
You see the thing about keeping it labeled the “D” word, is that we give it a sort of power, we keep it wrapped in secrecy and fear and taboo, we cannot embrace it and make our choices and begin to understand once more that death is an integral part of life, until we stop giving it that negative power. This is the reason, as off-putting as it may seem on the surface, that Death Cafe, Changing the Face of Dying, Death Doula and many other terms must not remove the word death. If we cannot even speak the word, if we allow it to hold that much power and ability to create fear, how can we possibly hope to change the way we die?
Confronting your fears on death, making your choices, having these discussions, when you do it you realize, it’s not the morbid horrid thing you thought it might be. It actually reaffirms life. Taking the power back from the idea of death means that you are choosing to live and making choices about how you’ll live with however much time you have. This is the reason I can do what I do all day long and not fall into a pit of despair. I don’t help people die, I help people to live until their last breath.
Think for a moment about the word death, what does that simple word evoke inside you? What do you feel? Where does your mind go?
Check out Deathcafe.com for opportunities to join the discussions in a community near you! (pssst, there’s one at 6:30 tonight in Falmouth, Maine and I’ll be there!)
Watch this great video about the Death Cafe in Boothbay! http://lincoln-home.org/spotlight-on-seniors-interview-with-lynne-tobin-on-death-cafes-in-damariscotta/