"How do I talk to my parents about Death?"
In the best of worlds, all our loved ones would have a beautiful, clearly outlined shared vision for their final days, weeks, months of life.
Even though we hear more and more about the importance of "The Conversation", most of us find it difficult to talk about death with those we love. This is normal and so beautifully human.
As adult children, we have lots of mixed feelings fully alive, in play, and in conflict when considering this conversation with parents. We often feel love, fear, desire, and helpless, and sometimes guilt.
These feelings signal that something is very important to us. We can use these feelings to help us get closer to our loved ones and to approach the conversation with increased vulnerability and more success. So before talking to anyone about death, Ask:
Why is it important to ME? Why do I want to know?
Here are some reasons why:
Because we love. We care. We want to be there or want someone to be there. We want to be a positive support. We want to know so we can give our family what they want even if it isn't what WE want. Because we want to know how to support them to have a blessed, beautiful transition and die in a good way. In Their Way vs our way.
Remember this is about YOU. You are the one who wants to talk. So start the conversation with:
"Hey mom. I love you so much, andI need to talk to you about something that is really hard and important to me."
Generally if our parents or loved ones feel that we need their help and why, they are very open and willing to offer up some beginning words about what they want. EVEN if it is "I Don't Know!" So come to your parent as a person needing their support. This includes telling them how much you love them and how much you want to take care, be there, love them, make this time good for you and everyone. And to do that, YOU need Them.
Second: This is a not a one shot"conversation". It may take many times to complete. No one I know had it all planned out in one sitting. With my dad, it took about 3 years over many dinners, vacations, and sometimes in between television commercials to understand and make plans with him and for him.
Third: Speak to this person in their own language and with their own images, metaphors, stories. It's important to share your own thoughts and feelings about what you want, too. This can help stimulate creativity and thinking. But Remember the nature of the person you are having this conversation with. What era were they born into and what is their capacity to vision about a good death? Lots of people born in the 20s/30s/ even 40s are able to think about how they want to be "buried" and that is about as far as it goes.
Fourth: Read A Mother's Final Gift. My mom and I are reading it together. She can't put it down. It is a story --the type of book written in a language my mother loves about another woman her age. It portrays a beautiful, thoughtful, end of life vision and how her family found their pleasure in supporting her every wish. It is a treasure and it has opened a path for both of us to talk about what we want.