Death & Dying – A Taboo Topic or a Joyful, Normal Conversation?

by Jane Keep, UK

In the last few days a close relative of mine has passed over. Something that struck me in these last few weeks is how scared she was of dying. In talking this through with a wise practitioner I got to feel how strange it is that in many parts of the globe, talking about dying openly and preparing people for passing over is not naturally done. Yes, there are many amazing nurses, doctors and carers who are experienced in supporting people who pass over, but generally in society in my recent experience, a lot of people are uneasy talking about it, and we don’t educate people about the process of dying. 

I realise that although people die in many different ways, some form of simple, clear education could help people prepare for their own passing over, and to understand the passing over of their relatives or friends as and when this occurs. And just as we openly discuss births, and the physical body’s process of birth (even to the extent that I remember in school being shown a video of a woman giving birth), we could also openly discuss death and dying.

What I am now wondering is –

What if part of everyone’s schooling, education, and upbringing included learning about the cycles of life, and death, and how natural they are, and to offer education for everyone about dying, and what naturally happens to the body as it prepares to pass over?

What if over dinner at home, or during a cup of tea with a friend, it was quite natural to talk about dying just as it is natural to talk about a new baby, or about moving home?

What if we knew of someone who was close to passing over, or was terminally ill, and instead of tip-toeing in our conversations with them, we just talked about the process of dying as naturally as talking about what we had for our breakfast?

What if we truly, joyfully celebrated with those who were due to pass over with a few loving  words and a true light-ness and playfulness? Celebrating their life and  honouring them in death?

Of course everyone deals with death differently and the prospect of someone close to us dying brings up a range of feelings and can be a very emotionally challenging and distressing time. I wonder if in having more open conversations about death we could also discuss our grief around death with more clarity also? Would it also mean that we viewed death differently? Would it mean people who were dying would experience the process of dying differently?

As my close relative surrendered into those final hours, there was a sense of grace with her as she passed over. However I feel she may have found the experience in the months leading up to her passing over quite different if she, and our friends and relatives had been able to share our feelings more openly about how we felt about death and dying during that time. A conversation that was graceful, natural and open for us all to express our feelings. A conversation that was celebratory of her life and at the same time one that recognised the natural end of a cycle.

1,193 thoughts on “Death & Dying – A Taboo Topic or a Joyful, Normal Conversation?

  1. I totally agree. I wish we talked about death and the cycle of life when I was growing up. I noticed how when my mum would bring up the topic of her will, that I would shut down and tell her to stop being so morbid…because dying has never been made a normal thing to talk about in society, like it’s taboo and dirty. it’s like we just completely ignore that it happens despite the very fact it is inevitable and so normal it’s ridiculous.

    1. Our attitude to death is also reflective of our attitude to life. If we are irresponsible and not looking at the truth of death what does that tell us about how we are living?!

  2. Many people can be afraid to talk about death or dying as it brings up a lot of emotional pain, what you are suggesting here Jane makes a lot of sense, it is time we began speaking more openly about death and dying and making it a very ‘normal’ conversation instead of a taboo subject that it has become.

  3. It is so very important to talk about death and the process of dying and not avoid this inevitable and unavoidable part of life until our last breath.

  4. Could it be a taboo subject because we all know that we have accepted a lie about death? This whole story about we only live once is at the root of so many of our ills as a society. Understanding the science of reincarnation is now critical for mankind to grasp.

    1. Could it be that we don’t talk about it, or want to look at death and dying as it calls us to a deeper level of responsibility when we reawaken ourselves to the truth?

  5. Great points Jane. We learn about the cycles of a butterfly and a frog at school but strangely enough we do not study the cycles of a human being. Death is fascinating to young children. When I was a child at a catholic school the call would go out to the playground that there was a dead nun in the chapel and there would like a stampede toward the chapel door. We would all line up. My point being is that children are not shy about talking about death so why is it not discussed?

    1. Great sharing Kathleen. And children are innately curious. it must be odd being a child around adults who don’t live transparently and who don’t discuss the obvious – death and dying when it is a certainty, and something that is happening somewhere in our lives or society regularly.There is much we can learn from children, and this is one thing – to be curious and inquisitive and to be open to seeing all there is in life -not to be pushing some facets of life (e.g. death) into a dark corner.

      1. Absolutely Jane, for even when someone close like a grandparent dies a child will often take it in their stride and actually feel a guilty in doing so when they are exposed to the emotional out-pour by the adults around them. I can remember being a child at a funeral and feeling what I called the wave of emotion crashing down on me and sweeping me up with it. I would then find myself crying with everyone else even though there was not an ounce of sadness in me beforehand. I would dread the wave and could feel it coming. I agree death and dying all needs to be openly discussed so death is normalised. After all we all die!

      2. I agree Kathleen – we would do well to learn from the way children are in these life events – and to reflect on the way we are too. I used to feel sad at funerals even if it was not a loved one, and felt drained after – and now I know I was absorbing other people’s feelings and emotions. How amazingly different life would be if we were raised to feel for ourselves, to discern our own feelings, and to realise when we have taken on others feelings (that are not our own).

  6. This is a sensational article, it is absolutely true in my opinion that if we discussed and stopped all the dark vibes towards the subject of dying then people experiencing actually passing over would not be so freaked out. We need to turn the tide, regardless of us agreeing or disagreeing on what happens after death, I mean, we all disagree on what happens in life but that does not mean that we do not educate on birth?

    1. I agree Sarah – having had the opportunity to have time with a very sick person and explore all her fears on death and passing over, it made a huge difference on the days leading up to her passing over – no anxiousness or fear, a simple acceptance that all was in its right order. A quiet passing filled with grace and dignity which was felt deeply by the staff caring for her.

    2. Well said Sarah – ‘we all disagree on what happens in life’ – great point too. Perhaps the topic of dying is harder for some as it calls in the subject of accountability, and responsibility – as in what quality of life have we lived? What percentage of our life was true? what was not true? Perhaps that is why we don’t want to talk about death/dying or acknowledge that reincarnation is simply part of the cycle of all life – because if we do talk about it, we would need to be honest about the way we have been living.

  7. It feels very disempowering when we feel like we have to turn to the so-called experts (the priest and the monks etc.) when the moment of death arrives and we don’t know what to do because we have been avoiding talking about it let alone dealing with it the whole time.

    1. I agree Fumiyo. When many get to dying or death they can be surprised, confused, perplexed, shocked, unclear about what to do next etc – but if we talked about death and dying as normal in our daily lives, we would be far more prepared and understanding.

  8. A lot of people who are dying are dying to talk about it but their relatives are in denial and won’t go there. It is a huge healing for everyone to bring it into the open.

    1. I agree Nicola – it is possibly one of the top ‘taboo’ topics in the modern world that is undiscussed – and yet it would be natural for us to discuss it just like any other part of life.

  9. I would like to pass with a smile on my face, at ease with the relationships in my life and knowing that I had completed what was there to be done/expressed/shared. I feel we live with a tension that we have not or do not do that and therefore a delay in our bodies. These conversations we don’t have are part and parcel of that delay and it would be so wonderful to choose a new normal in all our expression so we are at ease with our passing and talking to each other about death.

    1. I agree Lucy “it would be so wonderful to choose a new normal in all our expression so we are at ease with our passing and talking to each other about death.” We have made another way ‘normal’ whereby we don’t talk about death, and we fear it, when it doesn’t need to be that way. There can be grace and beauty in all eras/phases of life and in death too.

  10. We are going home when we die, we are shedding our body and will feel once again the illusion of separation. I have never been afraid of death, I often wondered why as a little girl and as I have had more years on earth and my body has aged, I have discovered that I was simply feeling where I came from, what we are made of and who we are. It is love. If we lived with a deeper sense of where we all come from – that there really are only external differences to us and celebrate the many diverse expressions we are here to offer, I feel we would have more harmony and less war. Is that naive or is it actually the wisdom children are born with that we step away from as we see a normal reflected to us that is vastly different and then doubt ourselves?

    1. So lovely to read, ‘We are going home when we die, we are shedding our body and will feel once again the illusion of separation.’ This is a great wisdom that the world does not reflect. Growing up I was amazed by how people were able to ignore being in the cycle of life and death, amazed at the denial and how only a few specialist people are given the role of acknowledging it (priests, doctors, bereavement counsellors etc.) and usually discreetly, in private because we are so not used to such levels of intimacy.

      Death is usually seen as this big thing that loved ones never get over. I grew up with people believing you have one life and that’s it- which can feed a great big bag of regret and resistance to dying. Regretting I didn’t do this or that; or inciting indecision because I am too scared to make a mistake and learn because I only have one life and time is scarce- should I have chosen this path, what would have happened if I’d chosen that path? Knowing one is within a cycle of life and death doesn’t give one carte blanche to be irresponsible because you know you have a second chance with another life. No, feeling the truth and purpose of reincarnation gives one access to the grander plan. Connection with the inner love that fuels us, the unticked bucket lists, the what ifs no longer become a source of regret.

      1. Yes, I feel an ease in my body when I read your comment. I had a moment the other day where I wondered if my life ended in that moment how I would feel, would I have any regrets or anything that was left undone, I just felt an ease in my body and a knowing that I had left everything as complete as I could at that moment in time – certainly not finished and not perfect but I was at ease, and realised that this was a foundation I should consider deepening so it is not only complete for me, but simple for others left to walk in the space after me so they did not have to ‘deal’ with my emotional or physical gunk!

    2. And thats a great point – what is our relationship to the physical flesh, to our body? yes we absolutely need to honour and cherish it to the bone, but, we can’t have attachment to it being the only one – as there is far more to life than this and when we feel the greater cycles in life this becomes clear.

  11. Talking about death and dying is still a taboo subject so it is great to read blogs like yours Jane that open up the conversation and be willing to talk about death in a loving caring way. Until we do we will carry on being in fear of something that will happen to us all, so why not prepare ourselves knowing that how we leave this life will be they way return to it in the next life.

    1. Its interesting that after so many aeons that death and dying has been in plain sight we still don’t normalise it by talking about it and preparing for it in the same way we talk about or prepare for everything else in life. We plan, discuss holidays, Christmas, birthdays, christenings, births, new jobs, even shopping trips…. yet death and dying are not treated the same.

  12. Our fears about dying and perception of life are so deeply interlinked. We rush to solve the cause of death yet avoid the true purpose of why we are here. The beautiful thing is in this world we will die as many times as we need to realise we don’t truly end the way we think we do. Like a person afraid of missing their train we pace and huff and puff but don’t realise the train of truth has already been and gone a million times. For the whole idea we are missing out is just a trick – it’s us who are the ones who are limiting love and this is what makes it hard to face. Death is just a reminder of the deeper truth we all know. Thank you Jane.

  13. It does seem odd to me that generally there is a fear of dying. Yet, it is the most natural of processes and is very much part of life. If we were more open about the topic and discussed it more widely, perhaps it would dispel the fear?

    1. Whilst on the surface it may seem that we fear death, but it’s not so much the dying that we are scared of, it’s being presented with all of our life choices at the end of life. Missed opportunities to appreciate who we are, healing life long hurts, deepening relationships and learning that we are loving, loveable and love. And realising that we will get to do it all again next time around. I agree that the conversation around death and dying needs to expand for the current conversations are not dispelling anything.

  14. I do understand that some people have a fear of dying, I feel that in the past i would have been one of them due to my catholic up bringing and the beliefs that I had, that we only have one life to get it right or it was expulsion from heaven, when I look back on that belief I am amazed that I took it on, I had an experience a few years ago of experiencing a past life when i traveled to another country from then on I knew we have lived many lives not just this one. Understanding reincarnation is the answer to understanding this most sacred process of passing over.

  15. So true Jane, passing-over is the end of a cycle, and may I add to the conversation by sharing what we miss the most is that we have never completed with the person who has died, which will always add to the feeling of regret so we go into remorse, sadness and grieving. Then as you say, “A conversation that was graceful, natural and open for us all to express our feelings.” By being open and expressing it brings in the fullness of everyone involved. So when another passes no more is needed to be said as we feel complete.

    1. And that feeling is unfamiliar to us, and not the norm in society – to have lived a life that is complete – and that is something in time we will become more familiar with as that is the true way given that we live in cycles, and passing over is part of that cycle.

  16. ‘Would it mean people who were dying would experience the process of dying differently?’ Undoubtedly so. The more I understand life and death the less afraid I have become and can be more at ease with death. I also feel how I squander life by not living it – and by that I don’t mean going off bungee jumping or sky diving. No, it’s more about how I delay returning to being and living me in full, getting side tracked by creating issues and dramas. The more I reconnect with myself the more at ease I am in feeling how I am living a cycle of life and death and life and death etc. The more I feel this in my body the more I feel how loving it is to be given many lives to learn living from my Soul in this plane of life. I am also coming to understand the poison that is regret and the love that is acceptance and understanding.

  17. I wholeheartedly agree Jane – the dying and passing over process is important to be expressed in our everyday living and shared as a natural completion of a cycle of life. There would be less of the ‘normal’ regrets and sorrow for all.

  18. I read an article this morning on 2 different experiences of death, both for people in their 90’s and both with significant chronic conditions. One person had never wanted to talk about dying, so when presented to the emergency department the family wanted on CPR being performed. The other example was the opposite, one where conversations were had and the family knew what was wanted and advocated on behalf of their family member. The result of the first was the experience of CPR on an elderly person, whose body had shut down and essentially died. This experience does not only affect the person but also all of those involved in the process of CPR, which is a number of health professionals. It also affects the family, even though they have chosen this. In the second example the person was allowed to die without intervention, with their family around, which is what they wanted.

    When we have these conversations on death, it supports more than ourselves and our family. There is a whole range of people that we may never know about who could be involved in our care.

    1. Well said and beautiful example Jennifer. We don’t talk about these things enough to learn from these experiences – nor to normalise talking about death and dying and knowing even from a young age what our choices would be if we did die. It is part of living a responsible life.

    2. Discussing what we want if close to death is so important. My Mother was insistent to have DNR (do not resuscitate) written everywhere she could in her medical notes, and had discussed it with me many times. This was twenty years ago now. Though I have no immediate plans for passing over soon (!) I too have discussed it with my own children. Having seen elderly patients suffer the consequences of being brought back. it’s not something I want for myself. Quality above quantity of life is what i value.

  19. Yes this is beautiful Jane, when we don’t talk about things we fill in ‘the gaps’ with fear and apprehension etc. and don’t hear or see the truth of dying and how it can be actually really beautiful, just like every other part of our life.

  20. This presents a whole new way of passing over and the possibility that we do not have to see it as a sad time of loss but rather a natural cycle of life that can grow and expand us, and that we have a communication job to do with everyone on what dying is, how we can prepare the body (if we know about it) and how to get our affairs in order so we leave behind something responsible for others.

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