14 Jul An Excuse to Talk About Death
by: Andrew J. Parver, Director of Operations
Five years ago, July 14, 2010, I wrote the post below. It’s still very much relevant.
An Excuse to Talk About Death
I’ve found that talking about death is a taboo subject. People don’t want to talk about it. There is no easy way to bring it up. This is problematic when family members or social workers want to discuss end of life issues with their loved ones or clients. “How do we bring up death?” is among the questions I’m most often asked.
“How do we bring up death?”
I suggest that people follow the news for clues. When someone famous dies, a window is opened for a serious discussion about our own mortality. Recently, there have been two examples that serve as examples. Senator Robert C. Byrd from West Virginia and George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees. Both were major public figures whose deaths were (and in Mr. Steinbrenner’s case, are still) major media stories. It is our job to create a conversation that will allow us to springboard towards our loved ones.
Michael Jackson’s death last summer provided me with a great teaching moment for high school students. It opened an avenue to discuss how the Jewish approach to a funeral and burial was so very different than what we saw on TV and read in the papers. And I found that the students were able to relate to these differences.
An important note: Every situation is unique and regardless how the conversation is brought up, it needs to be done sensitively and with undivided attention. Blackberries and phones need to be turned off. The person needs to feel that you’re speaking with them out of love and concern, and not because you’re “anxious to see them go” and are already onto the next task.