Why It May Be Beneficial to Talk With Loved Ones About Death
I lost my mother in May. Even as I type those words, I have not fully come to terms with it, as I have yet to receive closure.
She passed away in Malaysia while I was thousands of miles away in New Zealand. COVID-19 travel restrictions had prevented me from visiting her. It’s hard to accept that I wasn’t there and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
After picking up my brother’s call notifying me of her passing, I went straight back to a Zoom meeting I was hosting. I didn’t react that way because I am strong and accepting of her death. I still don’t fully understand the dynamics of my own emotions. This detachment likely resulted from not being there with her in person during her stroke or surgery complications. All I could do was watch, listen, and pray.
I watched my mom remain positive despite her condition. I watched her stay strong, even though I could see she was struggling. I watched her decline and not remember who I was, and I watched her stay calm despite the pain she was enduring. Finally, I watched her funeral remotely. But I still don’t have closure.
In the early stages, when she could speak, she never once complained about her situation. Her gentle smile was only occasionally interrupted by a frown of discomfort. That’s how she was the last time we FaceTimed. I’d never seen my mom braver.
Losing a loved one hits each of us differently. I don’t think we can all adhere to the same steps in handling loss. We grieve and cope in our ways.
Time will never erase the pain of losing my mom. Her death was sudden and unexpected. One day, we were swapping recipes over the phone and catching up on gossip, and the next, I learned I would never hear her voice again. It feels like I have a fishbone permanently lodged in my heart.
Since then, I have thought more about what it means to be cut off from the person you love. My mother’s death swept through my life like a whirlwind that came out of nowhere. None of us had time to prepare.
As a caregiver to a spouse with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, a terminal condition, I suppose I’ve had the opportunity to brace myself for what lies ahead. But I know the anguish of the loss will still cut deeply when the time comes. None of us can escape the reality of dying. It is not a topic people like to discuss, even though it’s happening all around us, especially amid the pandemic.
Perhaps not confronting it sets us up for more misery and agony. Death can be a complex and distressing subject, but not talking about it or preparing for it can become problematic later on.
I am not an expert in this area. But now that I am knee-deep in a mire of despondence, I know I need to face mortality head-on and eke out the cause of my trepidation. Not talking about death is like not meeting it. If we don’t prepare now, then later on the loss may be too heavy to bear.
As television personality Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
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