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.

1,131 thoughts on “Death & Dying – A Taboo Topic or a Joyful, Normal Conversation?

  1. If we were encouraged from a young age to speak and share about the cycle of life and the importance of honouring equally, all its phases I feel we would have more awareness of the importance of the passing over process, to the continuation of our evolution.

  2. Death certainly needs to be talked about more and normalised in our conversations. There is no need to drop our voices or to shush someone when discussing something so natural and something we will all have to face one day.

  3. ‘ 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? – This question exposes the degree to which we avoid talking about Death and Dying because it is never a discussion around the table unless one of our pets has died or a loved one has passed over and then with the repeating stress that is already accruing at this time, it encourages us to further separate from the most natural and ongoing discussion we need to have. Thanks Jane.

  4. Death is a topic that seems to never casually come up in a conversation over a cuppa and ‘how’s the weather?’ conversation – only until someone close to us dies, or we decide to do our will. Yet it is a definite that it will happen, so it does seem funny how little this topic is spoken about.

    1. I agree Johanne – actually there are a lot of topics we don’t discuss over a cuppa, at our dinner tables, and in life. We talk about the weather, traffic, transport, gossip, soap operas/tv and sometimes news stories but rarely are we curious about life, life cycles, and so many things about the world we live in – rarely do we start a conversation with a curiosity and intention to evolve, develop, truly learn and deepen our awareness, hence why death doesn’t come up too much in conversation in its fullest sense.

  5. When you place the conversation about having a baby beside that of someone dying, the difference is stark and yet they are naturally part of the one life cycle. Crazy really and shows how attached we become to people and the letting go of life. Rereading your blog here has been a real wake up for me as I continue to work in aged care.

    1. After observing someone dying I began to feel it was actually like a birth. The body goes through a kind of labour and surrender and the person completes the cycle, discarding what is no longer needed (that’s truly what dies so to speak), and they are then birthed towards their next life. Yes the body dies and there is an ending, but the being, the essence of the person, is birthed into a new cycle.

  6. Thank you for starting to talk about this topic – something that we are all too good at avoiding. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about the possibility of death and dying – but why? As I consider this, I feel that I would want to discuss what were to happen if I died, because then it becomes a support for others. But we seem to keep it hush hush because its a sad topic. But does it have to be sad if we make it a normal conversation? Recently we’ve been talking about death and dying a lot within the family and it has been very healing to do so because the whole family was involved and we made it pretty normal.

  7. Absolutely Jane – speaking about death and dying as part of our cycle of life would eradicate much anxiety and fear of the projected unknown.
    “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?”

  8. We are completely open to celebrating birth, the promise of new beginnings and the potential it brings but not the celebration and appreciation of completion. Definitely something worth pondering on.

    1. Yes and why we dont place the same value on it as why should it be any different as regards a celebration? And why would we not feel that those last moments are as precious as the first moments?

    2. That is a great point Suse, that it’s not just an ending but a new beginning. Even the words we use I feel can incite emotion, such as “ending” instead of “completion of a cycle”.

  9. Great proposals with these “ what if” suggestions… And this will surely, when the veil of ignorance and this information is lifted from humanity’s eyes, will be normal, and the liberation accompanying this will be vast.

  10. I imagine it could be quite isolating and lonely if you know you are coming to the end of your life but feel that you can’t talk about it with anyone. It is like we need to openly discuss this in life and prepare everyone so that those around the dying person also understand the process for the person and also what they go through and how they can support themselves and the person who is passing over.

  11. This is so well said Jane. A great deal of fuss is made over babies – yet reflecting on what you share here I feel there is very little discussion or questioning about what they actually symbolise or represent. It is like we gloss over the way we enter in and out of this world, as if to say we just magically ‘end up here’ somehow. This is simply a convenient way to avoid the true purpose and meaning of every day we are alive. For when we understand where we have come from, the family we have chosen to enter into and the issues we are here to evolve from, we can’t fall into seeing life as a mundane march, a pointless procession towards death and the dark.

  12. I remember a young friend of mine passing over, we were her only family and we clearly had different role, I was the one who spoke about her passing and what it would be like, another friend spoke about her will and funeral and what she would like, and the third friend kept it light and provided the reflective opportunity getting in touch with old friends, managing the visiting schedule and laying old issues to rest. Between us we have so many laughs, tears and amazing conversations. This was all long before I read anything like this blog. It completely took away my fear of passing over and so completely agree – we need to share how passing over can be so we offer others the same grace.

  13. The belief systems that many people have about dying and what happens after death can create a lot of fear and remorse when the person is dying, if these could be openly shared with an understanding that death is end of one cycle and the beginning of another that this is all so normal then life could be celebrated and the passing over received with tenderness and love.

  14. Agree Jane, we are all going to pass over sooner or later so it is strange we can avoid talking about it openly. Understanding the cycles of life and that in fact we are living the one life means that no breath is wasted and we are reminded of our responsibility to live each moment with this awareness.

  15. Yes, it has often struck me how expert we are at not talking about the obvious, in this instance death and dying. I have heard people say that someone was going to get better, even expressing it in the patient’s presence, as a wish or hope or desperate belief, and I have wondered how much of a burden that puts on them – when the very thing that is happening to them, the fact that they are in the dying process, is being ignored and made a taboo subject.

    1. Great point Gabriele – and, if we spoke about death and dying throughout our lives we would not be having those types of conversation at the end of people’s lives as we would all know and understand when we or others are in the dying process.

  16. A great blog Jane – yes, to have communication and conversations around death and dying as simply being part of life would support many people. For me, even thinking ahead about someone dying used to bring up huge sadness, way before the event actually happened! Since attending presentations with Serge Benhayon where this topic has been presented, my attitudes, ideals and beliefs around death and dying have changed dramatically – not just believing the words spoken by Serge, but from the absolute knowing within my body of the truth of what was being presented by him.

  17. How comfortable are we with surface level conversation that never really talks about the most obvious point? Way too comfortable. and it does a disservice to the person passing over as they feel everyone elses fear which, I believe, confirms to the person that dying is a process we should be afraid of.

  18. We are definitely not prepared to deal with death, and this puts a tremendous pressure on both the dying person and all the loved ones, and doesn’t not allow for it to be explored in new and healing ways. Currently it is common to see sadness, regrets, grief, sympathy amongst everyone experiencing the dying process, as well as treating the dying person like “a dying person” instead of just being with them and connecting to them as we normally would. By talking about death we could normalise the process and allow for more love and joy, instead of feeling confronted, shocked, fear and other emotions.

  19. Isn’t it absolutely crazy to consider how we go about life with an absolute denial of death and in fact of life itself? We go about our days, get into our cars, shove ourselves onto trains and drive ourselves at all levels throughout the day. We’ve forgotten about joy – the semblance of this feeling is a fleeting elation of effervescence and happiness over a few drinks outside of the grind of life or in front of an entertainment screen. We get excited about the innovations in cyber space and technology – the onset of driverless cars and nanosecond communication ability being the next big thing.

    But all along we’re in denial of life and terrified of death. We are terrified of the simplicity we could otherwise embrace and gloriously live in. When we open up to the truth about life and death, we open up to ourselves. We no longer need the distractions of hi-tech gadgets, entertainment to numb us till the next waking day or anything like that. We cherish what we feel within us, and we know that this inner most divine essence that we are and have, can never be taken from us. That it transcends death.

    Death is part of a cycle of grace, of rebirth, and of the forever deepening of our connection with ourselves and with God.

    We fear death, because we fear coming to terms with ourselves and with the humility and surrender that we all inevitably need to face.

    1. And in talking about death we are faced with responsibility of how we are living our lives. Its interesting that next to birth, death is one of the most normal things in life, yet it is one of the least talked about topics in life.

  20. A very needed suggestion/question you ask us here: ‘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. ‘
    It makes me ponder on exactly that.. and the grace we can offer people by allowing those questions and conversations to arise, as I can truly feel it will support. No reason for holding any of that back.. And indeed we need to celebrate it !

  21. It is such a support for the person on their preparation to this last phase, or when they are in this last phase to have that openess about it felt around him or her. So what they feel they don’t need to hide as it is embraced as the natural flow it is. There is space to talk then about that subject which can be experienced very intimately.

  22. Life would be remarkably different if we were to be taught about the cycles of death and dying at school and at home… where it is not a taboo subject or something that we fear as we get older, but a beautiful process that can be embraced and prepared for when the time of passing over is near.

  23. When we understand death and the process people go through it loses its mystery and stigma. You realise this is similar and as important a time as birth. Parents go to classes to understand the birthing process and ask everyone for their experiences. It would be great if this openness existed around death.

  24. From my experience in observing two close relatives in the process of dying, there was so much fear for a person and I felt that this could have been very different if it was talked about as a natural part of the cycle of life before this time approached – just like learning about child birth in school. When integrated into life like the natural cycle of winter turning into spring and spring into summer etc, the element of the unknown is removed. It is this unknown element that I feel causes a person to become fearful. It has been great to have this subject opened up for discussion Jane – thank you.

  25. Interesting possibility Jane that the way we feel about another’s passing has an impact on them. It seems we rarely consider how our feelings affect those around us but the more I observe this the more I sense the truth of the matter. After all, we fairly widely recognise these days that a bad attitude can bring others down – unless they are very self-aware. In my experience, it goes deeper than attitude – to how we feel within and to the energy we express too.

  26. What struck me while reading your blog Jane is how there is so much available information in the form of classes reading material, both on and off line, seminars and research around the process of giving birth, but there is very little available on the process of dying or passing over. Since death is a natural part of the cycle of life it is important that it is treated as such and it would help greatly if we were to consider what it is, both within ourselves and society as a whole, that prevents us from speaking openly about our departure from this life .

    1. I agree Elizabeth, no one really wants to talk about death but it is such an important topic because ultimately it is something we will all go through no matter what! What it does bring up is responsibility and ultimately most of us do not want to be responsible for all of our choices and so anything that shows us them we avoid at all costs until we are faced with them!

  27. One of the reasons why it’s so important to talk about death is because as sensitive beings we have such a wide range of feelings about it. More open conversations would allow us all to work through how we feel and move into greater awareness and insights. When we experience a death it can otherwise be quite confronting with all the unexpressed feelings and fears etc rushing to the surface which makes for an overwhelming experience.

  28. This definitely is a topic we need to discuss. I can see in my head how death is just a part of a cycle and there’s reincarnation and all that, but at the same time, I have experienced how it was not easy to be that clear-cut and detached when someone close passed over and it was actually more to do with how I hadn’t lived up to the potential offered in that relationship I held with that person. Death seems to bring a sense of finality to that possibility. Funny how I could be spending years not meeting/speaking with someone and our relationship could kind of disintegrate over the years, but if I hear that they are dead, I could be overcome with regrets and emotions. But what if I never hear about their passing? I could just continue to live as if nothing changed. For me, this conversation brings up how we perceive our connection, and I notice how I like to put a limit to that – that it ends if there’s no physicality to it. I know that is not true – but right now, that is still more of a concept for me, and not yet something I am recognising and living in the honour of that.

    1. One of the regrets I know I have had when someone has died is that I didn’t express what I felt with them, I didn’t say how I felt about them or appreciate them or I didn’t have an honest discussion when needed – so when they died it felt incomplete. Which is why when my mum died I learnt that there is a way to complete – which includes open and transparent conversations – to the point where my mum and I knew we were complete and everything that needed to be said had been said.

  29. The more I learn about the cycles of life, the bigger more broader ones and also the smaller daily ones it makes a lot more sense. It is not something to fear rather embrace the end of a cycle so we can then begin a new one. So often we fear ending one cycle because of the magnificence of what will come next and because we may not be able to fathom we stay with what we know. What if life is just like this that there is so much more than purely the physical and the way we live affects the way we end our life/incarnation and sets the bench mark for what we will come back to.

  30. The subject of death in some Western societies seems to be one that most want to avoid but why would we feel to avoid something that is inevitable and simply a part of life? This conversation needs to begin with children from an early age instead of trying to keep the normalcy of it from them. Maybe then we will finally have a generation of adults who find it totally natural to speak about their passing and plan for it, instead of side stepping the reality and pretending that it won’t happen to them

  31. If we lived our whole life having open discussions and honestly expressing with each other our appreciation of the people in our lives, life itself and all that it teaches us, it would prepare us for the inevitability of death so much more lovingly.

  32. There is a great opportunity for us to look at death completely differently to what would be considered the norm in Western society. Right now as a society we typically see death as life’s greatest woe. But what if death were a passing that is then for a return? If we truly knew that how differently would we live life?

  33. We never know when we or anyone we know and love may die so it is important that we communicate our love for them so that we do not have the regrets of ‘If only I had told him/her I loved them.’

    1. Imagine if we were with every person as if this was the last time we would ever see them? This is a great standard to live by.

  34. It would make a huge difference to all concerned if our dying or passing over was an everyday topic, and discussed openly and freely, without feeling the slightest bit awkward, but we seem to be a long way from that place at the moment. Discussions like this are a huge step in the right direction.

  35. Death and dying has been placed in the taboo basket as part of a bigger set-up. If our society was more transparent about death and dying, there would be more transparency about how we are living – and how this, is in desperate need of change.

  36. In the aged care place I work people are often in the stage of their life where they are dying, what I observed with one particular man was that nobody really acknowledged how close to death he was, so, right up until the day before he died they were still trying to force feed him his mince and mash meal. I pondered why this was and realized that most of the staff have issues around dying so go into denial of the fact that this man was going to die real soon.

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