So back to the original situation posed by my colleague: how can we as a community of caregivers address death denial and death phobia in our culture?
I have observed over time that our larger society healing can come from unexpectedly small everyday interactions…
Death denial can be healed by how we create safe spaces for authenticity: *News Flash* People have feelings! Those feelings change as we engage in ever evolving situations, these are all very complicated things that are worth a talk, or several, even if it feels like the most awkward talk with the people you love and respect most. Please try. When people feel safe to share their feelings you can learn new ways to love, and support each others growth. People may have shocking stories with long hidden secrets… Realize all flowers grow from compost. Look at how badass and honest and real you can be. Being open… and turning towards an opportunity for an authentic moment can make all the difference. Death seems less scary in the light of living and loving authentically.. I suppose there would be less cause for death bed regrets in such cases. Bonus => this type of authenticity does tend to be contagious.
Death denial can be healed by how we talk to our children. What would it be like to avoid death euphemisms with our kiddos and just have a real discussion…? “Momma is dying just like going to sleep?” No, honey it’s not like sleeping, its like dying… Leaving your body is like going through a door and locking it behind you and never coming back home. “How will I feel when you die?” I don’t know how you will feel when the time comes but generally people go through a time that is called grieving. It’s like being sad for a long time, cause the person you liked to see everyday, the person who’s hugs made you smile, well that person is dead and gone now so that means no more hugs. Now what we have to do is use our memories to remember all the wonderful hugs we shared so their love lives on inside of us. Just like Momma’s love will live inside you when I am gone. “When will you / I die Momma?” Hopefully not for a long long time when we are both old ladies… but whenever it is know that I love you… and that is why us spending time together here and now and getting hugs is super important, so we have lots of good ones to remember later… Bonus => more hugs and opportunity for real chats on other big topics.
Death denial can be healed by being honest about struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, and self harming with folks who have proven trustworthy. Once the secret is out you can find pathways to support and rebuilding your life. And for what its worth I am happy you are still here cause I have been there… Keep breathing and badass-ing your way through… You got this! For the rest of you, be the type of friend that can be trusted with this sacred information. Be open to creating safe spaces for authentic moments. Bonus => deeper friendships based on truth and respect.
Death denial can be healed by aging naturally… while I understand this is not an option everyone will choose... you do you… by being radically authentic with who we are and accepting our naturally beautiful selves can cause others to do the same. Bonus => effect on how society at large views normal aging.
Death denial can be healed by doing community outreach and engaging folks in honest dialogue before they get to the hospice situations… Successful examples include Death Cafe and Death Salon… Follow their models, or build your own… I call mine The Memento Mori Society. Again you do you… Please always remember that you are an end of life caregiver and you deserve to be recognized for your wonderful understanding and acceptance of this often taboo subject of death and dying! Thank you for all you do!
Did you notice how the majority of the things that go into healing our culture from its death denial are 100% FREE and only really involve the investment of a moment in time where we choose to turn towards our own vulnerable humanity and say This Moment & This Place IS Safe to Share Our Sacred Stories.
Fun Fact about Cat => I like to talk to cab drivers, nurses, store owners, waiters and pretty much everyone else about what I do… not surprisingly but in case it needs to be said… we ALL have some deep thoughts about death and dying… most people are just looking for an opportunity to share safely.
Peace in the Space Between.