There are so many taboos in life, so many things that a person can't do, or things that can't be discussed. Death and dieing are just one of many topics that are skimmed over, not to be discussed. Yet like taxes, death is a certainty in our lives.
Recently I was asked to speak to teenagers about death; friends of theirs had experienced the death of a loved one, and the adults felt that it might be a good time to open it up to questions. Interestingly enough, with the invitation, came hesitation. What would I talk about? What details would I share? What if the parents are uncomfortable with all this? Was it possibly an over reaction to what was happening? What if this was a foreshadowing or omen? So many questions, so many fears spoken and unspoken, but yet this is a very normal reaction to this topic. As it is with so many similar topics - sex, religion, politics, etc., any subject matter that involves personal opinion, or societal restrictions. To allay any concerns, I simply extended the invitation to any parent or adult that wish to attend.
The words from a recent Boston Globe article, 'Finding a better way to die' by Dr. Ira Byock, sums up what our society perceives - 'There is this real superstition in our supposedly scientifically sophisticated society that if we talk about death we're going to make it true, and if we don't talk about it, somehow we're protected.'
Yet death does happen, every day, in every corner of the world, to rich or poor, young or old, healthy or sick. Death does not discriminate, and we are no more safe from it's grasp than our neighbors or friends. So whether we choose to silence the conversation, or discuss it, has no bearing on any outcomes. As a mother who has had to bury her daughter knows all too well, death makes the game plan and sets the rules, we are simply pawns.
Why do I bring all this up? I feel it is important to allow questions to be answered, to listen to concerns, to allay fears. When my daughter died, I could not help my other children because I was too embroiled in my own emotional state. I was no help to myself, let alone anyone else. One thing I did urge and encourage my children to do, was find someone they could talk to; councilors at school, close friends, family, etc. What I have come to learn, is that if we don't talk about it, than our imaginations take over and creates a myriad of scenarios. It is the unanswered questions that lead to restless nights filled with all sorts of nightmares. Not that there is always answers, but at least acknowledging the death and talking about it, makes it easier to cope with.
As I spoke and shared my story with these young people, I could sense the relief from the adults in the room. I had managed to discuss a 'taboo' subject without upsetting anyone, well almost anyone. I began my talk with a simple reminder that 'loss' comes in so many forms, that death is not the only thing we grieve. Grief, I explained, resulted from change - from parents divorcing; going to a new school; saying good-bye to a friend who is moving away; having a loved one serving in the armed forces; loss of home security/stability; dealing with a family member who is terminally ill; and so many more too numerous to mention here. Death of course being the most difficult grief to cope and deal with.
At the end of my talk, I found that there weren't too many questions, however, teens and adults as well took as many handouts as they could, focusing on what was relevant to them.
If you now someone who is trying to get through a loss, let them know it is okay to talk about it. Don't be afraid that you won't know what to say, or may not have any answers. They are not looking for answers necessarily, but for someone who is willing to listen. And if questions do arise that you cannot answer, its okay to let them know that you don't know, but try to help them find ways to get the answer they need. Support groups, I can't emphasize that enough, are a great resource for anyone going through a difficult time, regardless of the cause of their grief.
If you are the one coping with loss, find a willing ear, a hand to hold, and talk. If you have no one you feel comfortable enough with, find counseling or a support group. Trust me when I tell you, talking and sharing my story, my feelings, my emotions and confusion, has been a great help to me, helping me to continually move forward. Not everyone feels that this subject is off-limits or taboo, and when you find someone who understands, allow yourself the luxury of speaking from the heart.
Our burdens and the burdens of others are so much easier to bear, when we ask for help, or offer help. 'There is no better exercise for the heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.' ~~ Anonymous. We do not have to go it alone, nor do we need to fear talking about what troubles us. Life gives us the circumstances and obstacles, it is our task to find ways of coping, dealing and finding ways to move through our circumstances and obstacles. Know that you are not alone, ever!
Blessings! and until we meet again.