Talking about death
Fear or anxiety about dying can impact how we live in the day to day, and on the quality of life and time left to us. But like many things that worry us, talking about death and sharing those fears can help reduce them. It can also provide us with the opportunity to have conversations with loved ones about our healthcare wishes as you move towards the end of your cancer journey.
“Most of us have thought about death, but it’s hard to talk about. Many people with cancer don’t want to talk about death because they do not want to burden family members and loved ones. We often find that family members share similar fears but don’t talk about them because they want to protect the person with cancer. Talking about death and sharing fears can help the fear become more manageable.”Maria, psychologist
For some of us, the fear of leaving others behind and worrying how they will cope can be what makes death difficult to talk about. There are people and resources to help with these conversations and decisions:
- A pastoral carer, counsellor or psychologist will support you and those close to you, with talking about and approaching end of life.
- Programs (usually lead by a psychologist) that focus on relationships, identifying meaning and values, leaving a legacy and planning for how you want to die and be at the end of life.
- You don’t have to speak about the dying itself – sometimes the most important things is what we say to those we care about – telling someone that you love them and are proud of them might be the most important thing to you.
- Nearing the end of life can be a spiritual time. Some people focus on their spiritual needs towards the end of life helping them to find meaning and purpose.
A useful reference for those who want to read further is Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the terror of death, by psychotherapist Irvin D Yalom about coming to terms with anxiety about death.
Listen to some prominent Australians speak about end of life issues and how to start a conversation about death in the Dying to Talk series produced by Palliative Care Australia.
“The most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people and places and memories and pictures. They’re feelings and moments and smiles and laughter.”Anonymous
Advance care planning
Making decisions about future healthcare is also known as advance care planning. Advance care planning can help inform those closest to you how to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Learn more about the benefits of Advance Care Planning.