A Candid Conversation About Life and Death

dark tunnel with a bright shiny light at the end.
by Vance Larson

In the journey of life, we often find ourselves navigating the twists and turns, facing both joyous occasions and moments of profound sadness. One topic that often lingers in the shadows, evoking a mix of emotions, is death. Society tends to view death solely through the lens of tragedy, but is every death truly a sorrowful event? Let’s embark on a candid exploration, challenging the conventional narrative and embracing the idea that, for some, death can be a relief—a release from unending pain and suffering.

Shifting Perspectives: Death as a Release

Woman in a jumper and scarf, with a bun in her hair, reflecting on life and death, while drinking a coffee.

Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train; it’s a welcomed reprieve. Having spent a lifetime working in mental health, I’ve borne witness to both the heart-wrenching pain of loss and the peaceful acceptance of death as a natural part of life. The notion that a long life necessarily equates to a good life is one that merits reconsideration. Quality of life, rather than sheer longevity, should be the focus of our reflections.

Not all lives are marked by joy and fulfillment. Imagine the plight of someone eternally incarcerated or the daily agony of relentless pain. Life, in these instances, isn’t defined by its length but by the pervasive suffering it harbors. Life, by and large, is shaped by our attitudes and actions, but there are circumstances beyond our control where the journey becomes an arduous one.

Confronting the Inevitable: The Decline of Life

Awareness of our mortality is not an obsession; it’s a profound acknowledgment that accompanies every breath. The slope of life is a continuous descent, and death is an inevitable destination. Personally, I don’t fear death—at least, not in theory. The reality remains unknown until we find ourselves in that situation. However, my professional background, belief system, and life experiences lead me to believe that I would approach it with acceptance.

Yet, if faced with a terminal diagnosis, I’d want a say in the matter. It’s about having control over one’s final moments—whether it’s a peaceful drifting away or a more proactive decision. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but fostering open and honest conversations about death is essential. Preparing for the inevitable, discussing our wishes, and addressing our fears can lead to a more serene transition when the time comes.

The Unpleasant Conversation: Preparing for Death

Elderly couple sitting on the couch having a conversation about death

While death is an uncomfortable topic, it’s an essential conversation we must engage in. With every sunrise, we are reminded of the transient nature of life. It’s a truth we can’t escape, and as such, discussing our feelings and wishes about death becomes a crucial part of life’s journey. Avoiding these conversations often leads to a cacophony of voices, each with their own agenda, bombarding us when we are most vulnerable.

Life is undeniably beautiful, but death, too, can possess its own beauty, especially when we’ve had the courage to broach the subject beforehand. Initiating conversations about death, even through meditation, provides us with the opportunity to express our desires and fears. It’s a form of prep work—a way to face the inevitable with a clear head, unburdened by the cacophony of external opinions.

The Sacred Act of Death: A Personal Transition

Young man reflecting about the future and life and death, by the ocean.

Death is one of the most sacred acts we will face, a profound transition from one state of being to another. Meeting it head-on, with an open heart, allows for a more peaceful departure. Denying the inevitable only prolongs the inner turmoil. Those who have planned, made peace, and lived a full life tend to transition with greater ease. Death, when embraced as a part of life, becomes less of a dreaded end and more of a natural progression.

In conclusion, as certain as the sun rising tomorrow, we will all face the reality of death. It’s not about erasing the fear but acknowledging it and engaging in the necessary conversations. The act of preparing for death is a gift to ourselves and our loved ones. It allows us to face the inevitable with grace, understanding, and the knowledge that we have lived our lives authentically, on our terms.

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