Let’s talk about……..death
It’s not something that we talk about every day, in fact it can be a taboo subject, but this is what we have been encouraged to do as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week (18-24 May 2015).
As lawyers, you may not come across death as part of your working life unless you deal in probate, fatal accidents, medical negligence or similar. Even then you may not consider death from a personal point of view. Yet death is the one certainty in life!
As a counsellor, death is a theme that comes up quite often – whether it is anxiety about a person’s own mortality or coming to terms with a bereavement. In both cases, I have found that talking can ease some of the anxiety. The theme of the awareness week for this year was “Talk, Plan, Live” and you can still follow online using the hashtag #YODO (You Only Die Once). It is suggested that we all take five simple steps to hopefully ensure a better end of life experience and reduce the heartache for the people we leave behind. These are:
- Write a will (Probate lawyers will know this one already!)
- Record your funeral wishes
- Plan for your future care and support
- Consider registering as an organ donor
- Tell your loved ones your wishes.
Most of us will have some idea about what we would like to happen in the event of our death (whether we are buried or cremated, the type of service we would like and the music we would like played at our funeral). However, unless we communicate our wishes then they are unlikely to be met.
In his book “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Dread of Death” the writer and existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom notes the interdependence of life and death and that “learning to live well is learning to die well and that, conversely, learning to die well is learning to live well”. He illustrates this with examples from literature in which central characters have changed their lives after being confronted with the prospect of death, the classic being Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”.
This is also something that I have seen in my own work as the thought of death often brings with it questions such as “What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the point of my life?” “How will I be remembered?” “What have I achieved?”. Thinking about death can therefore allow us to reflect what we want out of life, which is also demonstrated by the phenomenon of “bucket lists” in which you note those dreams, plans and goals you would like to achieve before you die. What would be on your bucket list?
So, just as I am doing in this article, use this year’s awareness week to:
- Talk about death, dying and bereavement
- Plan your own end of life experience
- Live your life!
For more information about Dying Matters Awareness Week go to: www.dyingmatters.org