What do people first think when they realise they are dead? Does their reaction differ if they have been expecting their death, say, after a long terminal illness, or if it is totally unexpected, say being killed in a sudden motorbike accident? I would imagine their acceptance of it would vary.
For those of us who are alive, we seem to digest it easier when someone older who has lived a lot of their life, passes away, rather than someone who is younger and never really had a chance to live, passes away. So, this makes me wonder, what do the people who have died think about their own death? I’m sure they would be angry and sad no matter what age they are when they die, but we will never have an answer to this until we pass on ourselves. And despite the fact that I believe souls remain here on earth after their death, the only way we can shed any kind of calm collectedness on our own deaths is if we discuss them more often while we are still alive. Which means like right now. There is no point in dying unexpectedly and being shocked/horrified/saddened by it.
What is the point in living our whole lives being scared by the inevitable? Sure, nobody wants to think about their demise, but why do we always avert our eyes, or deflect, or detour the conversation to something more digestible and palatable when death comes up in conversation? Why do we do it?
Death is a fact of life, just as birth, marriage and your first day of school is, so why do we shun it? Why is it taboo? Why does it give us the creeps to talk about it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m quite open to talking about dying and very comfortable with the topic. It feels safe to me. That doesn’t make me morbid – it just means I have learnt that acceptance is the key to being at ease in life while a lot of other people have not realised this. Acceptance is the key in any matter. If we can accept something, we shall not fear it. Well, that’s how my brain works anyway. And it has done so since I was a small child. Perhaps it was a defence/coping mechanism I acquired subconsciously?
Grazed knee with blood pouring all over the concrete? No worries. I accept it. I’ll just go get a band-aid. Huge gash in the side of my thigh forcing my shorts to literally stick to me? No worries. I’ll just walk home and show my mum and it’ll all be fine.
Acceptance and understanding is the key to anything. We are less likely to fear what we accept and understand.
With cancer becoming as common as the common cold, I strongly believe children in schools should be discussing death more often with their teachers in the classroom. Not to corrupt them, not to instill negativity and morose morbidity into them, but to prepare them for what is to come later in life.
Talking about death in my family. Never happened. So then, one day, my dad is diagnosed with a terminal illness, his illness being terminal at diagnosis, and as a family, how do we deal with it? The straight answer is: we don’t.
We didn’t deal with it because we never discussed death at the dinner table. Never. And I feel we should have. We could have prepared ourselves a little better for what was to come, that’s for sure. We could have galvanized ourselves against death more.
I don’t mean to sound critical – sure, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if I think about all the people I personally and directly know who have died from cancer over the past seven years – I feel pissed off. Pissed off because we allow such an inevitable omnipresent thing to ruin our lives emotionally. And it isn’t only my family who does – it’s most families. And it’s because nobody is talking about death.
Good on you Carrie Bickmore for getting us all talking about brain cancer by wearing a beanie – I’m so happy you did that – but the real enemy here is death itself and not what causes us to all die.
If we could all be more open minded when it comes to death, I feel the anxiety and hopelessness surrounding it would dissipate a little.