What is a good death? It's different for everyone. At Radiant Mourning, we define a "good" death as one that aligns with your values. It's a subject worth thinking about, not only for your own fulfillment but also to support those who will grieve in your absence.
A good death doesn't just happen; it takes planning.
In previous posts, we know that while most people wish to have their end-of-life choices honored, only a fraction will have the necessary conversations to ensure it happens.
Why is it so hard to talk about how you want to die?
Maybe it's cultural. Perhaps it's generational. Some people prefer straight talk, welcoming conversation, ideas, and feedback. Others don't wish to discuss death if they are more private or self-conscious; they may even feel insulted.
Because death is such a taboo subject in North America, these conversations end up happening in a hurry, when decisions MUST be made, and when there is little time for personal considerations. It's best to start now and avoid the stress and heartbreak that comes from not being prepared.
Beginning Candid Conversations
Early candid conversations are critical to creating peace of mind for everyone, so let's examine the best way to begin.
Starting the conversation can be as simple as asking, "How do you feel about what's happening? Have you made all your preparations, or do you still have things to do?" "What elements are most important to you in your time of transition?"
In some cases, it makes more sense to be more direct. This could sound like, "I know you might be frightened, and I know it's hard to talk about your wishes, but I would love to hear more about your concerns and needs so I can support you." Candor with kindness helps you get right to the heart of the matter.
Sometimes general questions aren't enough, and it's helpful to have specific questions to jump-start the conversation. Here are a few questions my clients find useful.
What do you consider "quality of life"? The answer is different for everyone and may be shaped by previous deaths someone has experienced.
Do you want life-sustaining measures initiated if you have a life-limiting illness? This includes, but isn't necessarily limited to, CPR, intubation, and feeding tubes.
In what physical location do you wish to die? Again, there's no right or wrong answer. Do you want to be in a facility? In your own bed at home? At home, but in a hospital bed, that may allow for a better level of care? In the home of a friend or family member?
Who do you want at your side when you die? Family only? Friends only, and no family? Beloved pets?
What kind of sounds or music would you like to hear if you are unresponsive? It's thought that hearing is the last sense we retain as we die. What do you want those previous noises to be?
I hope these questions help boost your confidence when talking with loved ones and inspire you to connect with your own desires for a peaceful end-of-life transition. Of course, if it were as easy as asking a few questions, there would be no need for the services of a company like Radiant Mourning.
Next month we'll talk about the importance of documenting end-of-life wishes.