Word on the street is we’re not dying well in this country! There are several factors involved, and we will discuss some of them in this article. One thing that seems clear is that if we hope to have a happy ending, we better learn how.
As a hospice nurse for several years–and then as an end of life Doula–I have witnessed the final stages of hundreds of lives. I am an expert not only on how to die well, but also how to do a very poor job of it. The fact is, no one dies poorly intentionally, but many of us do die without intention. This is true, because we seem to be willing to leave the details of our last chapter up to fate, or sometimes even perfect strangers!
Many of us aren’t even aware that we actually do have a say about the last era of our lives. Just as we once were tasked to make decisions about our college years, starting a family or details of our career–we can make our last era and what truly matters to us a reality simply by planning ahead, and taking charge of our own death destiny. But before we can start to work on this very important task, we must rid those thoughts that stand in our way.
Here in the U.S. we see death on TV and in the movies, but in reality many of us will see little or no real death or dying. This leaves most people with very little “hands on” experience in death and dying. Americans mistakenly tend to think of death as something that happens to others, but not to ourselves. It is also common for most people to feel that experiencing death only happens once we have become old, and by then it won’t matter anymore anyway, right? It is time we start to think differently, and stop burying our heads in the sand!
Denial is one word commonly used to describe this death “barrier” in our minds. In fact, it is said that the U.S. is a “death denying” society. Just like Scarlett O’Hara in the famous movie Gone With The Wind, we put off planning for death by believing that we can think about it another day. In fact, as a society, we’re often completely opposed to even the discussion of death and dying; try bringing the subject up at a party and see if you get anything but dirty looks!
Why is it that we continue to deny death, when it is such a natural life occurrence? Common sense and experience tell us that even if we try not to think about death it is still, in fact, absolutely unavoidable. In her book Death Makes Life Possible, Dr. Marilyn Schlitz asserts the point that death really does make life possible and without it, life simply could not exist. When you think about it, no one has ever been able to bypass this “natural law”. Instead, history has shown us that the billions of humans who came before us were unable to avoid death, and we cannot either. We may not have the ability to know whether any of our ancestors lived successfully, however we do know that they all died with complete success!
So why did I write my book? For starters, I wrote Dying Made Easy(er) to teach my reader how to die well. My book goes into great detail explaining choices we all can make that will create a much better experience at the end of life.
The second reason I wrote the book is to address why so many of us are unable to create our happy ending. I believe that if we can take an honest look at why we are in a state of denial about death, we can learn not only how to die better, but how to live better! Because even at end of life, it is still life.