It is a fact we will die.
Whilst the "when and how" are less predictable, there are mortality statistics in most countries, particularly the developed ones, that can be a "rough rule of thumb" as to life expectancy.
And yet so many of us find even the thought of our own death or a loved one's too painful to contemplate!
Fortunately there is a lot each one of us can do now, to make that event more manageable for our families and ourselves, when the time comes.
Obtain as much knowledge and understanding about death and funeral options as possible.
Firstly it is important to understand that "denial" is a normal pyschological defence mechanism that keeps people safe from the enormity of things they do not understand or feel they have no control over.
Until the last hundred years or so in western culture, relatives or friends nursed their dying people at home. So most people knew what to expect when someone died from natural causes.
So the more information and understanding we have, the more power we have to make decisions over the things we do have some control over, and the less fear and anxiety will affect our actions. The latter is often the cause for guilt and regret later on.
- Step 1 - Make a list of all the things that frighten you about death.
- Step 2 - Group them into related groups - medical, economic, legal, practical, emotional, spiritual/ religious and the like.
- Step 3 - Find out as much as you can about the points on your list
- Step 4 - Become informed about of the basic details of what to expect with a natural death, and what practical things you can do to assist
Do what you can about planning for your own death and funeral
There is a lot of practical information is required when someone becomes critically ill or dies for whatever reason.
This aspect is one that you can take control over - now.
And there are several reasons why this would be important to do now. These are :
- you may die suddenly or develop dementia and thus not be able to have a say in those things you consider important
- you may outlive those upon whom you want to rely
- you may assume others know more than they do eg "don't trust your children to know anything about you - you're just mum or dad ! "
- you may wish to ensure family and/ or friends are not burdened with extra responsbilities and tasks at a time when distressed and grieving your loss
This does not mean you need to plan your funeral in detail, but those left behind would appreciate knowing your wishes about some practical aspects such as
- things covered in a "living will"
- burial or cremation
- style of coffin and associated funeral services
- civil or religious ceremony and your choice of celebrant
- floral tributes and/or donations to charities
- distribution of personal items not noted in your will
It is important to leave some aspects for those left behind
In many ways, the funeral is not for the person who has died. It is for the living who are left behind to
- acknowledge their loss,
- to honour the contributions the person who has died has made to their lives, and
- to offer and recieve comfort and support from one another.
Taking the time to reminise, plan, organise and participate in the ceremony are practical things your family can do to assist them in dealing with your loss and help to reestablish order in their lives.
Celebrate people while they are alive - too late when they're dead!
It is worth remembering that many of the regrets people express when someone has died, is the the things they did not say or do when the person was alive, the things they wish to know - but no longer have the chance to ask, the special times they planned to set aside, but were just too busy to take.
There are many advantages to using a special birthday or anniversary to hold a "liferal" - that is to celebrate our loved ones while they are still with us, to assist in the process of recording family stories, to have some special times together before it is far too late.
Retirement parties, Sixty, Sixty-Five or Seventy birthdays, wedding anniversaries when the parties are around the 60 to 70 age group are wonderful opportunties to hold an extra special event and use the services of an independent celebrant to ensure everyone is able to participate in as relaxed an atmosphere as possible, whilst at the same time giving the event an extra special touch.
Rona Goold CCN Founder