Guest Post: Thinking and Talking About Death
This post explores a taboo subject of death. Through Ms Rants’ calm, thought-out perspective – thinking about death becomes less scary, less forbidden and feels “okay.” As a part of the human experience, death is a constant. In her post we see why discussions of death have a place in our world – not only in our families but in our health communities. We raise awareness, break down barriers, and expose what’s been hidden when it comes to our lives – why not think of death in the same way? Thanks for musing with us, Ms. Rants! –Amanda
Thinking and talking about death
by Ms. Rants
I think about death a lot. Well, maybe not a lot. I don’t know. “A lot” is one of those relative terms, and I have no idea how much anyone else ever thinks about death. It’s not something that’s considered “appropriate” to talk about.
When I was a kid and I’d be bored on my walk home from school, I’d sometimes have daydreams about some guy jumping out from behind a house and coming after me. In each daydream, I’d find some oh-so-clever way of escaping and getting help. In some of them I was also protecting my younger sister. Every time, I succeeded. So thinking about death, for me, is like that – sure it could happen one of these days, but I’m not usually thinking about causing it, just the possible responses to it.
Technically my illnesses are not fatal. My doctor says that they could shave a few years off my lifespan, but looking at my relatives, there’s a fair chance that, even with a shortened lifespan, I should still make it into my 80s, and probably even into my 90s, so that’s never worried me. Still, a few years back I had a rough spell for several months and I could feel the life draining away from me. I didn’t feel like I was dying immediately, but I could feel the years being cut off the end of my life. It was like someone had poked holes in me and my life was draining out, slowly but surely. I don’t know if that’s what was really happening, but that’s how it felt. I thought about death a lot at that point.
Sometimes I think about suicide. I’ve never considered actually committing suicide, but I have wondered what would happen if…. I’ve thought about the least painful way to do it. I’ve thought about who would find me. I’ve thought about the reactions of my family and friends. Considering the reactions of my loved ones has always been enough to make suicide a non-issue for me. I have to admit, though, that if they weren’t around it might be different.
There are times I wish I’d die. This is different from committing suicide because I wouldn’t intentionally take any action. And I suppose that in the long run, I don’t actually want to die. But sometimes, the pain is so intense or the burnout is so difficult that I just don’t feel that I can handle it anymore and death seems like a great way out. Eventually I think about how it would affect other people and I remember why I should live, but there are definitely times when living seems overrated and death seems like a peaceful solution.
Of course, like everyone else (I think), I think about the death of my loved ones. Sometimes I think about someone I love who has passed away, or someone I love who is approaching death. Sometimes I think about what I would do if someone close to me were to die and I can’t even begin to imagine how I would handle it. Sometimes I feel guilty for even thinking about their eventual death, but then I remember that death is natural, it’s a part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking about it, despite society’s taboo. I feel even more guilty when I wish for the death of a loved one who has recently been suffering from a long, painful demise. She has lived a long (she calls 70-somethings “young”) and full life, and she herself has plainly stated that she would like to die now, instead of continuing this horrible decline. So again, I know that I should not feel guilty, and yet I do because I am as much a victim to society’s fear of death as everyone else.
Death is always there, always a possibility, always occurring, but no one talks about it, even when it’s imminent. Yes, it can be scary to confront our own mortality, but that certainly doesn’t help anyone. I didn’t love reviewing my parents’ wills and living wills with them, but if I should need that information one day, I’ll be glad to know what it is and where to find it. And if we knew that one of us was going to die sooner, shouldn’t we address it?
The thing is, we don’t always know when death is imminent. If we as a society can’t discuss death when we know it is approaching, how are we going to talk about it when it feels more abstract? And the answer is, we don’t talk about it. We avoid the conversation at all costs.
Personally, I do not believe in any sort of afterlife, but sometimes I wish that I did. I do not mind that when I die, it’s over, but sometimes I wish that loved ones who I’ve lost weren’t entirely gone. I wish they were looking down on me. There are so many different beliefs when it comes to the afterlife, but that doesn’t change an important fact: at some point, we all cease to live on this earth. Yes, every one of us will die. No exceptions.
So why can’t we talk about death?
Ms. Rants is a single 30-something living near Boston, MA. She enjoys ranting (often) and raving (sometimes) at her blog, Chronic Rants (www.chronicrants.com) She is a daughter, sister, aunt, niece, granddaughter, and friend. She’s had symptoms since a young age, and now 20 years later, she completely has a handle on her health. Some days. Sort of. Mostly. Ok, sometimes.