How to have that conversation about death

How to have that conversation about death

Many people in the UK die without having made a will or having talked about what they want to happen after they die. Yet, a tactful conversation can help sort out any concerns you have with your health, the next phase of your life and what affairs you need to get in order before you die.

It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s one of the most important you’re going to have. By talking about the practicalities surrounding the end of your or someone else’s life, you’ll make sure the people around you are prepared for when the time comes.

We’re all going to die. So, conversations should be an exchange where each of you talk about your preferences, plans and worries. Rather than being morbid, raising the subject of death can bring you closer to those around you.

Getting the conversation started

  • It can help to ask a question in order to gauge whether the other person is ready to talk about death. Starting with ‘Have you ever wondered what would happen if…’ can get people thinking.
  • It’s not easy to talk meaningfully, or open up, when you’re rushed or in a pressured situation. Choose the right place, such as a comfortable home or your favourite quiet cafe.
  • Provide others with an opportunity to open up by turning the conversation to the future and keeping it open-ended.

Tackling the subject directly

  • It may be that approaching the subject head-on can be more helpful, particularly if you don’t see the person often or you usually don’t have the opportunity to talk openly.
  • It can be good to introduce the subject with an acknowledgement of its difficulty. This will help to reassure the person that you know these things aren’t easy, or that you realise this isn’t the sort of stuff you’ve talked about before.
  • It can also help to start with thoughts on your own death, to make sure undue pressure isn’t placed on the other person.

Keep the conversation moving

  • Encourage the person to say more by asking leading questions.
  • Reassure the other person, but don’t block the situation by attempting to simply get rid of fears. Saying ‘everything’s fine’ may just shut down the conversation and make neither you or someone else want to open up.
  • Just being honest and outlining plans and thoughts clearly will undoubtedly lead the other person into a more open space.
  • If there are things you want to say and it seems like the right moment to say them – do.

Things to think about when starting the death conversation

  • The type of care you want towards the end of your life
  • Whether or not you would want to be resuscitated or not
  • Where you’d like to die – home, hospital, hospice
  • Any funeral preferences that come to mind
  • Are there any people who depend on you that you’d like taken care of
  • Is there anything you would like to get done before you die
  • Is there anything you would like people to know before you die

Starting the conversation can be daunting: you don’t know how the other person may react and you may start to think the whole process a little morbid. But, it’s a conversation well worth having. Talking about death benefits not only how you approach your own life but your relationship with those close to you.

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