About Death


Our Culture Makes Death Taboo

In modern society, death is like sex in that it is generally not a topic that is okay to openly discuss.  (I think society’s attitude toward death is one reason why veterans feel isolated.)  If you want to discuss what it “means” to you “to die,” people might quickly judge that you are “morbid” or “overly focused on death unnecessarily.”  THAT is the first concept to chuck out the window.  If you get an uncomfortable or judgmental response from friends or family, recognize it is a reflection of their inability to face the issues that you are attempting to face.  (This is why the bereaved frequently find grief support groups helpful, so they can be around folks who can discuss the topic without running away.  And people can run away mentally by avoiding a topic or making a poor comment, as much as physically leaving.)

And let’s face it: the fact that you could die at any moment is terrifying.  That’s why we push the thought away!  But it is an immature response that only puts off the inevitable.  You have the freedom to push it away, but there are consequences and reflecting on these consequences might make you more willing to think about your own death.  (Daniel Siegel talks about this skills as one of the nine domains of integration that are part of achieving optimal mental health.  He calls it “temporal integration,” which is a coming to peace with the fact that we all want and need certainty yet we also must acknowledge that everything dies.  Read my post here to read more on temporal integration.)


Because You Love Your Family, Get A Will and Power of Attorney Today

I think a good title to a presentation would be: “Taking Care of the Affairs of Your Death is An Act of Love”.  One time recently, when I lectured at a grief and loss class, I asked the students, many of whom were middle-aged, how many had a will or living will or power of attorney.  Only two out of eleven students raised their hands.  I said that I would give extra credit if I were the teacher to get these documents done.  Simple ones can be completed and notarized at a bank in one afternoon.  Why don’t more people have these crucial documents?  Because Americans don’t want to think about death.

What happens is not only are the people who really love you totally devastated when you die, but they also have to deal with all these legal and technical details that are really stressful!  So if you love your family, you will get your documents in order today.  Stop reading this (but come back! I have lots more information to help with grief) and DO IT.  Don’t wait until it’s a really stressful time in your life, complete the documents when everything is calm.  Be grateful for your life and acknowledge the love that you feel for your friends and family as you complete your will.   Death happens at any time, not necessarily because of age or sickness.  Recognize this and act accordingly.


Why Thinking About Your Death is the Best Way to Spend Your Time

When I give my lecture on mindfulness-based care for end-of-life patients and their caregivers, I always begin with a two minute silent meditation.  Next, I explain that in the same way silence is crucial to the understanding words, death is crucial in understanding what it means to be alive.   I say it’s like the idea of dreaming.  Let’s say you are dreaming right now, reading my words.  You go to the doctor’s office tomorrow as a follow-up for some basic labs and she tells you that you have a particular type of cancer and you only have 6 months to live.

“Six months to live!” you think.  And in that moment, you awaken from your dream.

We don’t have to have a doctor tell us we have terminal cancer in order to wake up.  The gift of loss for anyone reading these words is that it can be transformative now.  This is how “thinking about your death” can be “the best way to spend your time.”  You don’t have to think about it incessantly, but keep the knowledge that today is very precious and spend your time accordingly.


Click on “Grief Toolkit” phrases or guided meditation for SUPER helpful tools for ANYONE experiencing loss or wanting to help a grieving friend.


Questions? Contact me at


***photo credit to h.koppdelaney

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