Why Do We Not Like Talking About Death?

In September 2015, when my mother passed away, both my brother and I were with her as she took her final breath. I remember thinking how beautiful she was. She’d been in a deep sleep for nearly a week and, over that week, she seemed to age quickly. But during the last ten minutes of her life, beauty and youth came back to her.

Can people nearing death hear us?

The medical staff told us to talk to Mum while she slept. ‘She’ll hear you’, were their words, but how could they have known? Had they once been near death’s door where they witnessed the voices of those still living, or had somebody who had experienced near-death told them what happens?

#family
My mother and grandmother. Taken January 1962 ©hughsviewsandnews.com

We took their advice and talked to Mum as if she was sitting there having tea and biscuits with us. However, occasionally, general chit-chat turned to tears as we told her how much we loved her and to go on her way with whoever was waiting for her. But how did we know that somebody was waiting for her?

Twelve hours earlier, Mum had briefly opened her eyes and looked up at me. I spoke to her and wondered if she knew who I was. I didn’t tell her who I was but made sure I told her that I loved her.

Having suffered from dementia for the last five years of her life, I asked myself if her condition was still stopping her from recognising me, and if she saw me as a stranger?

When she looked into my eyes, squeezed my hand gently and smiled, before closing her eyes again, I thought I knew the answer. However, years on, I still wonder if I did have the answer. Why? Because I didn’t have any proof of who she saw when she had looked up at me. However, at least she did know that she was loved.

Do books and movies hold the secrets to death?

Maybe the answers are in the fiction we read and watch? After all, whenever we read a book or watch a movie, are we witnessing what the author or authors believe about death?

When we read about a person being at ‘death’s door’, or watch a film where a death occurs, is the author sharing some of their experiences with us from a previous life they can’t quite remember?

What about those who claim to have witnessed the bright light that appears when they were near death? Are they talking from experience, or is it guesswork? Even if only a tiny amount of what they tell us happens, are they telling us what they have witnessed, or are they merely portraying it?

Do the lights go off when we die?

Is knowing you’re about to die, a gift?

Death is something many of us find difficult to talk about. When my step-father asked me to help him organise funeral plans for both him and my mother, it was something I didn’t want to talk about with him. I felt uneasy having to discuss it with him.

He, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any problems in asking me to help him put the funeral plans into place. He’d already decided which company he wanted to use, how much he wanted to spend, and what would happen on the day.

After I agreed to help him, I wondered why he had chosen that time to ask for my help. He had, after all, been thinking about death because he already knew which company he wanted to use and what both funerals should include. Nine months later, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Did he know that the actual day of his death was nearing?

Are the displays of death as beautiful as the displays of life?

Have I made any plans for my death? No. Why? There’s something about death that I don’t like talking about, yet here I am discussing it with you.

Talking about death makes people uneasy. None of us wants that, do we? However, in some circumstances, shouldn’t the discussion make us feel happy that it’s out in the open?

If talking about death takes pressure off others, why do we still not want to talk about it?

I knew that my step-father was glad when I helped him organise his and my mother’s funerals. He knew that nobody had anything to worry about when he and my mother passed away. It was all paid for, and nobody had to do anything apart from picking up a phone, and report their deaths.

Everything was taken care of. My step-father was happy, and I should be happy because some of the pressure he’d experienced with death was something I wouldn’t have to go through.

#death #life

If Hell is below us, why do we still bury some of the dead in the ground?

Can only the dead answer the questions we have of death?

Do you ever wonder who the last person will be that you will see before closing your eyes and allowing death to take you on your next journey? Is there another journey after death? Are there journeys for all of us, none of us, or just some of us?

Some of us still have a birthday to look forward to this year, while the rest of us may be looking forward to a birthday next year. But what about our death-day? During the last 12 months, we’ve all passed the date in the month we are going to depart this world (our death-day). Do you ever wonder about that date, knowing that it passes you by every single year?

Does not knowing the date of our death-day make us better people or make our lives any more comfortable? If you knew the date of your death-day, would you change anything about the way you live your life? Would you ensure you became a better person and make the most of every single moment of your life?

#death #trees #fog #life

Do we become isolated when we die?

Would you visit those you seldom see more often knowing that you may soon lose the chance ever to see them again?

Like my step-father did, would you ensure that loved ones are taken care of by preparing for your death? As well as celebrating a birthday, shouldn’t we all celebrate our death day?

Has the location of our death already been chosen for us?

I’ve often wondered about the place where I am going to die. Is that place already somewhere I know or is it somewhere I’ve yet to visit? Will it be at home? Will it be in a shop, theatre, cinema or a bar? What season will it occur? What day of the week will it be? Perhaps, Friday (the day I was born)?

Will I be with others who all have the same death-day as me, or will I be on my own? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be alone when death approaches me. I want to be with people (just as I was on the day I was born).

I’m not sure about being surrounded by my family and friends at the time of my death. I don’t like the thought of them watching me pass away. It wouldn’t be fair to them, would it?

However, being surrounded by total strangers seem alright. I wonder if those strangers are already in my life or if I’ve yet to encounter them?

I don’t like to think about myself dying in a hospital bed or on a beautiful beach in full sun. Although I love living by the sea, the feel of sand on my skin is something I’ve never been fond of experiencing, yet it’s beauty attracts me.

Rainbow over Swansea

Can I become a rainbow when i die?

I do like the thought of dying while sitting in front of the TV, especially if what I am watching is making me laugh or feel happy.

Does the way we’d like to die change as we grow older?

When I was younger, the thought of passing away while in a passionate embrace was something I thought was one of the best ways to die. However, as I grew older, I started to think about how unfortunate it would be for the person with me at the time. Now, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that position. Would you?

Final thoughts

When I pass away, will anything or anybody replace me? How do I convince people not to be sad that I am no longer here? I want them to celebrate my life, not my death. Does grief have to come hand-in-hand with death? Even if it is a stranger who has just entered my life when I close my eyes for the final time, any sadness will be erased away by time, won’t it?

There is something about death that I do know. While we are still here, we should do all we can to ensure that the sadness that often comes with death is not the kind that buries its roots deeply into those that we leave behind.

Do the dead leave us behind, or are we leaving them behind?

Copyright © 2019 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Author: Hugh W. Roberts

My name is Hugh. I live in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, the most popular of which are my blogging tips posts. If you have any questions about blogging or anything else, please contact me by clicking on the 'Contact Hugh' button on the menu bar. Click on the 'Meet Hugh' button on the menu bar to learn more about me and my blog.

141 thoughts

  1. I think talking about death makes most of us uncomfortable because we don’t want to die or loose our loved ones in death. It was not God’s original purpose for us to die in the first place. When Adam and Eve sinned we inherited sin and death. God still is going to fulfill his purpose. That’s why his son Jesus died as a ransom sacrifice and there is going to be a resurrection, John 5:28,29, under his kingdom that he taught us to pray for to come to earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:9,10. When his kingdom comes there will be no more sorrow, death, tears, or pain, Revelation 21:3,4.

  2. Thought-provoking article. It’s not talked about because for some it’s an unpleasant topic. It’s all about the if scenarios and religion. It’s a gentle reminder that we should live our life the way we like it.

  3. This is a very deep topic. I find a lot of comfort in what the Bible mentions about death. Ecclesiastes 9:5,6 helps me to know that we don’t suffer when we die and we don’t have to fear the dead. Jesus likened death to sleep on several occasions (John 11:12-14) so I know there is no suffering in death. I believe we’ll see our loved ones again. John 5:28,29 mentions that they will be resurrected. Psalms 37:10,11 says the meek will posses the earth and live on it forever. So from what the Bible says we have a paradise earth to look forward to. I strive to devote more time to spiritual things everyday since the next day isn’t promised.

  4. Beautiful post, Hugh. So many questions about death. Perhaps there is a different perspective and experience for each of us. I’m glad you were there for your mother.

  5. You opened up a big subject here, Hugh. Let me share my experience when my husband was dying. They had transported him home in an ambulance and put him into a drug-induced coma. He lingered for another week in that state. The medical people told me the same thing – that he could hear everything said even though he couldn’t respond. I don’t know if he did or not, but lots of people came by during that week to sit with him and share their last thoughts. But, at the moment when the soul left his body, there was such an incredibly overwhelming peace that filled the room. I literally saw a physical mist leave him and exit through a side door. Was that his soul? I think so. Then immediately following, I physically felt angels wings touching and holding me. It was a most profound experience. I have through the help of a medium, communicated with him since he passed and the confirmations are mind-blowing. I do not believe for one minute that everything ceases when we leave this physical body! I have proof!

    1. Hi Jan, thanks for sharing the experience of your husband’s death with us. By proof, do you mean your experience of what happened, or do you have more proof? I’d be interested in knowing.

      I was with my mother when she died but didn’t experience anything that you did. But, as somebody else mentioned in a comment, maybe what we believe in is what actually what does happen when we die?

      The comments on this post have very interesting to read. I’m so glad I decided to go ahead and publish this post.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience with us.

      1. By proof of life after death, I am referring to “visits” I’ve had from my husband since he has passed. We can dream of our departed loved ones, but there is a huge difference between a dream and a visit. Here’s an example. I had gone back to the town we lived in for a book event and while lying in bed that night, he laid down beside me. There was a depression in the mattress from where he laid and even though I couldn’t physically see him, I knew he was there. Then, there have been communications through a medium about things so personal no one else but me and him could know. Maybe what we experience is based on what we believe. If so, my belief is pretty darned strong. 🙂

  6. Your step-father was concerned with the practicalities of dying. Imo, these concerns should not be overlooked. I worked in a hospital for many years. One of the most emotional situations is when someone is facing the possibility of death, and their loved ones don’t know what the person wants. Should the doctors try everything to keep them alive? Should the patient be permitted to pass without interference except for pain management? Etc. Personally, when I’m at life’s end, I’d like to be euthanized with the same kindness I’ve given to my pets who have reached the end of their lives.

    As for when and where, we might have some choices about that if we develop a terminal illness. But for catastrophic events, I don’t spend much time thinking about it since I can’t control it. I totally understand not wanting those left behind to suffer over our loss, but we can’t control that either. We can always encourage those we love to live their best lives no matter what.

    As for what happens afterward, there is no way to tell.

    1. Thanks for your comments and thought on the subject of this post, Michelle.

      I faced the same problem with my mother with regards should the medical staff try and save her if she had a heart attack. Given her medical condition, I didn’t think she’d want to be saved, so I gave my written consent that she be allowed to pass away. It was a tough decision, and although I can never be sure that it was the right one, I went by what she had told me during her life when the subject of death came up. However, she seemed to hang on to life for as long as she could. One relative said to me that the family on my mother’s side were all fighters and would do all they can to live. Unfortunately, they told me this after her death, so you can imagine how bad I felt by the decision I had made. However, she passed away naturally.

      I’m not sure why, but your comment went straight to my WordPress spam folder. Fortunately, I check the folder at least once a day.

  7. Hearing is the last sense to go…or so I’ve heard.
    When I go, I’m going to be set on fire and have my ashes thrown into the nearest dumpster.
    No service…no marker…no remembrance of any sort.
    I don’t want people bearing flowers and wiping away crocodile tears…who wouldn’t give me the time of day when I was alive.
    Alas…this includes my own children.
    Great post.

  8. Lovely article. Have you ever attended a Death Cafe? They are designed to be able to talk about death with others.

  9. I have told my loved ones, I don’t want a funeral when I die. I want them to have a picnic with lots of good food and I want everyone to share a good thought/memory about me.

  10. There’s not much point worrying about it – we won’t know till we get there. I won’t be arranging my funeral with my kids. For one thing, I wouldn’t want to burden them with the belief that my wishes had to be carried out – they can do what they feel they want to. The other thing is, I rather hope I shall be past caring, wherever I am – or I’m not. Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

  11. This is a great post, Hugh. I like to think your Mother knew who you were before she passed, and that she knew you loved her. In the 1980s, when so many people suddenly sickened and died, I noticed people died the way they lived: materialists who valued social status seemed to have unhappiest deaths. I wondered if this was because in death we lose it all. I also noticed people who had faith and a commitment to a cause greater than themselves had the most graceful deaths. I learned how to die from those people. When the AIDS epidemic started, the odds were high that I would be among the dying so I prepared. I made writing a priority and did my best to write my best in the time I thought I had left. I was terrified of dying without leaving a legacy. At one point, I volunteered to work with AIDS patients at San Francisco General. I discussed the physiological process of dying with many of the doctors and most said the brain is wired to die, so the moment of death is probably pleasant. I like to think they were right. How does facing death as an older man change things? I’m more accomplished, I have a better understanding of my place in the world, I participated in a social movement that won its battles and made life better for people, so I feel as if I’ve done my part to make the world a better a place. I still have a few battles to win before I’m ready to die, but if I die tomorrow I would not feel cut short, which is how I felt about dying in the 1980’s. As for what happens after death: I think we are eternal.

    1. You’ve achieved an incredible amount during your time, Rob. Like you, I want to leave this world, feeling that I have achieved most of what I was sent here to do. I also want to leave knowing that I made the most of my life and enjoyed most of it. I’ve always been fascinated by life and why we are born. There must be reasons why we are put here, just like there must be reasons why we die when we do.

      I am so grateful that I have lived long enough to see and do so much. And I believe that my life path still has a long way to go before it comes to an end. I am looking forward to meeting the people I have yet to encounter and to also live the rest of my life to the full.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this subject and for also reblogging the post.

  12. Hi Hugh – fascinating post and comments to read about – thanks for writing it up … most has been said – I was with my Ma when she died in 2012 .. but only just made it … and certainly wasn’t ready for it as such. I was ready in that she’d been confined to bed for over 5 years with major strokes, but thankfully her brain was still functioning … the experience taught me a lot. I do believe we see things … perhaps another time scale – I don’t have it – but have experienced others who do .. and my mother occasionally was convinced there were other people around.

    Thanks for writing it up for us … I think we all learn so much in the blogging fraternity circle – all the best Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary,

      Thank you for joining the discussion about this fascinating subject.

      ‘Another time scale’ – that sounds very interesting. It reminds me of those who say that their whole life is flashbacked to them as they die. I wonder if the ‘other people’ your mother spoke of were those she knew, strangers, or a mixture of both?

      I’m overwhelmed by how well this post has done. I didn’t think many readers would want to talk about death. It seems I was very wrong.

      Have a lovely weekend.

  13. A lot of questions indeed Hugh and like many other people have said, very thought provoking. I lost my dad to the big C when I was 22 and as he wasn’t at all religious, (as I am not), his wishes were not to have a funeral. He couldn’t think of anything worse than his beloved family being in a church and he being talked about by somebody who didn’t know him with us all crying and being morbid and sad. He was very black and white when it came to this subject. You live, have your life, then you die – that’s it, the lights go out. Ok, we adhered to his wishes, but what he hadn’t thought about was the affect that would have on us, well me in particular. I struggled for months after, I didn’t know why, until a specialist explained to me that I hadn’t been allowed to greave. We as humans need to say goodbye to our loved ones as part of the grieving process. I was stuck in the process. It’s strange now to think about it as it was so long ago, but as I wasn’t with my dad when he passed and he didn’t have a funeral, I was left with a degree of anger toward him, (this man I loved dearly) and it ate me up. I wish we’d have talked as a whole family about his decisions on this subject, because that is the one thing I’ve taken from this. Talk about death, about what will happen after death, about feelings. It doesn’t have to be a sad conversation just an honest one 🙂

    1. Sam, thank you for sharing these details with us.

      My stepfather was the same as your dad. He didn’t want any church service for him or my mother. He told me ‘no vicars, and nobody to dress in black.’ After he died, some found this difficult to accept and could not bring themselves not to wear black. He also did not want anyone turning up wearing a suit. However, on the day of his funeral, we had somebody do some non-religious readings at the graveside, and then all went back to the pub where my stepfather drunk. There, we were able to share memories, and despite there being no church service, I somehow still felt that he had had a funeral. I adhered to his wishes because it was me he shared them with, but some of the family thought I’d made them up and had arranged the funeral how I’d wanted it. It went on to cause friction which still exists today.

      That’s why your point about talking to each other about our deaths (and what we want) is so valid. I only wish I had asked my stepfather to write his wishes down. Whether he would have is another thing, but this lesson taught me to be more open about death. And, as you rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be a sad conversation.

      Thank you again, for sharing the experience of your father’s death with us.

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