The Dying Matters Coalition is a British organization that raises awareness about death, dying and bereavement. This week (May 18-24) is designated as Dying Matters Awareness Week. Their recently released survey proves that human beings are a fascinating, infuriating species:
- Although 32% of British adults think about dying and death at least once a week, 72% believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing it.
- Only 35% say they have written a will; only 28% of those with a child under 18 have done so.
- 40% of parents with children under 18 have ever taken out life insurance.
- 7% have written down their preferences for future care, should they be unable to make decisions for themselves, despite the fact that 79% believe qualify of life is more important than how long they live.
Like I said: fascinating and infuriating. What exactly are they waiting for? How do they expect their wishes to be known if they don’t write them down?
If you’re like me, you’ve heard the horror stories of expensive, drawn-out court battles over assets, of families left in dire financial need because there was no life insurance.
But human beings – British or not – are all too capable of denial, which explains the numbers above.
It’s hard to talk to our families about these things. They might even suspect that the reason you’re bringing it up is because you just found out you’re going to die soon. There are finances and medical decisions to think of, maybe custody issues, too. It’s not simple and rarely easy to initiate these conversations.
So try this: start with your friends.
Those of us of a certain age have been dealing with the failing health and deaths of our parents for quite some time. My friends and I have shared our experiences, shared our information and contacts, to help each other as we face the complicated issues surrounding dying, death and bereavement.
That sharing has also allowed us to consider what we want, too, in our final days. Somehow, discussing it with friends is easier than discussing it with family. Give it a try.
The next time you find yourself with friends, sharing what’s going on with your parents or older relatives, mention what you’d do if you were the person who was dying. “I would never want that, would you?”
Granted, it’s not the most uplifting topic for a conversation. But you’d be surprised how empowering it can be. Watching someone you love waste away, unable to communicate their wishes, while those around them try to guess what they’d want…if that doesn’t inspire you to make plans, I don’t know what will.
And here’s a tip that worked for me: start with the funeral. Believe it or not, your friends have probably already considered what music they want at their funeral. I picked out a couple songs years ago. They may not be on your play list, but I guarantee, my friends know exactly why I chose them. Here’s one: