Posts tagged ‘fear of death’

Why We Don’t Talk About Death

We don’t talk about death much.

I never even used to think about it.  When I was younger, I truly felt as if I would never die.   I could not even imagine my death, so how could I fear it?

But other people’s deaths scared me.  The wars, natural disasters and murders on the t.v. news scared me.  I’d get nightmares about losing family members.  Then I’d wake up crying and go find them and treat them better than gold all day.

But me?  –I was ten feet tall and bulletproof.

Somewhere along the road of life, I have shrunk down from 10′ to about 5’5″ –and not very bulletproof at all.  I think it was when my children started doing things better than I could do them– technology stuff, texting fast, remembering things, running faster, telling jokes better, playing the flute.  I realized somewhere along the way that they were strong, and sometimes, stronger than me.  I was still growing up right along with them, but I was already grown up, and they were passing me by in so many ways.

Then came the obvious stuff:  sudden appearances of new eye wrinkles, and more and more trips to the salon to cover up the incoming gray hairs.

At 42, I am old enough to be a grandma, I am told.  Well, my kids and stepkids range from ages 19 to 1 year old.

I feel my life perspective has changed, matured, gotten smarter. Along with the change in perspective on life came a change in perspective on death.  I guess it’s dawned on me that death is a part of life.

But we don’t talk about death much.  We ought to talk about it more.

Death mostly comes into the conversation in the form of terror movies, ghost stories, and horrific dramas in the news about catastrophic natural disasters, wars, murders, or executions.  No wonder we fear the word.  No wonder no one wants to bring it up.  We’ve sullied it, and made it narrowly defined as a frightening thing to avoid at all costs, including avoiding speaking of it.

But some people say we’re better off when we do talk about death.  Death should be a natural part of the conversation we have about life.

The main groups pushing the “Let’s Talk About Death” idea are the end-of-life caregiving groups, who worry about people dying miserably, not being able to articulate their end of life desires early enough, for fear of bringing up the subject of death with loved ones.

An article in The Guardian (see says that dying people may receive too much unwanted medical attention because of the taboo surrounding talking about dying.  The problem extends to health professionals who are reluctant to bring the subject up for fear of upsetting patients and their families.

But I’m not talking about that, although it is also an important issue.  (Discussing our end of life care with loved ones should, of course, be done before we are too close to the end of our lives to be able to discuss it at all.)

I’m thinking more about the fact that we do not talk about death at all.  Even though it’s inevitable, we act as if it will not happen.  That seems not only dishonest but also sort of mean.  Why not prepare ourselves and our children for something that we absolutely know we will all face?  We don’t talk about it with our adults, our teens, our little kids, or our old folks.  Why can’t we persuade ourselves (and our children) to view death with a larger viewfinder, one that includes both sadness and happiness, a view that can be a solid part of life’s natural conversation throughout the long journey of living?

It is wrong that we leave it to violent video games, heartless reporters, and anguished loved ones at funerals to set the tone for us, and to define what death means.

Why do we do that?

I think it’s because we fear death too much.  Like the words “Voldemort” or “MacBeth,” if we don’t say it out loud, nothing bad can happen.  That is so silly.