Birds, bees, and end of life
by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager
I heard a statement the other day that was rather astonishing: We, as a nation, are more comfortable talking to our kids about “the birds and the bees” than we are talking to them about death. It’s an interesting dichotomy when you think about it. One discussion is about a process that brings life. The other is a conversation about the end of life. Two sides to one very controversial coin.
Look, it’s obvious that the medical advances in our country have afforded us a much longer life expectancy than in years past. But does that give us the right to just ignore death? I hate to break it to you, folks, but it’s gonna come knocking one of these days. Shouldn’t we try to get comfortable with the idea?
This week in the UK, they are doing something that I think is rather brilliant. (In your head, you need to read those last two words in a British accent. It’ll sound better that way.) The week of May 14 through May 20 is Dying Matters Awareness Week. And it’s a national observance. Can you imagine doing that here in the United States? Talking about issues surrounding death and dying for a week straight? Probably not. But then again, the UK is the birthplace of the modern hospice movement (thank you, Cicely Saunders). Not the US.
Dying Matters is a coalition of organizations and businesses that are trying to change public and professional attitudes about death and bereavement. The goal of this week is to “reduce the fear of dying, encourage people to discuss their end-of-life wishes, and increase knowledge and awareness of palliative care.”
Seriously, how cool is that? Now, I’m probably biased because I work for a hospice organization. (Most of you could probably think of other things way cooler to talk about!) But I think it’s beyond great that the UK recognizes the importance of discussing, and preparing for, the end of life.
The sad fact is that more of us still die in hospitals than in our homes, even though we claim to want to be in our homes at the end. But how can that happen if the conversation never happens? How are our loved ones supposed to know what we want if we don’t tell them? And how are we supposed to acknowledge our grief when a loved one dies if we can’t talk about death in the first place?
Thus, Dying Matters Awareness Week in the UK. I think it’s a smashing idea (am I pulling these British terms off at all?) and one that I wish we would duplicate in the US. If nothing else, it would be great if death became less of a taboo subject. And it would be wonderful if we could talk to kids openly and honestly about death so that our discomfort would not be perpetuated in future generations.
Frankly, I’m much more comfortable talking to my kids about why birds and bees die than about. . . you know. . . the birds and the bees. Looks like I need to start wrapping my head around the other side of that coin. But the thought leaves me simply knackered. (Ok, that was bad. Seriously, I’m going to stop now.)
Even though we don’t have a Dying Matters Awareness Week in the US (yet), just go ahead and talk, people. Let’s at least get the conversation started.advocacy, awareness, end of life, grief, hospice, palliative comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.