By breaking the silence about death and dying, we set the foundation for making end-of-life decisions that are in alignment with our deepest beliefs and values about life and death.
It’s imperative that we get rid of the taboo against talking about death in this country.
We, at eFuneral, have posted several articles and videos on death and dying. We’ve even hosted death cafe events to help people start thinking and talking about end-of-life. Judith Johnson, an author, educator, coach, and interfaith minister, recently gave her perspective to the Huffington Post on the importance of having conversations about end-of-life and dying. She offers some great insights into the implications of shying away from such important discussions. For instance, some of the costs Ms. Johnson lists that we bear for not talking about death and dying include:
- 80 precent of Americans do not put their personal affairs in order before they die.
- In 2009, Medicare paid $55 billion for doctor and hospital bills alone for the last two months of patients’ lives. That’s more than the budget for the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education. And, it’s been estimated that 20-30 percent of these medical expenses may have had no meaningful impact.
- Most hospital patients, relying on doctors to advise them of their healthcare options, fail to take into consideration the vested interests of the doctors and hospitals. As a result, many terminal patients are given false hope by tests and procedures that may do little more than protect the healthcare providers against potential lawsuits and financially benefit those providers.
- A vast majority of Americans say they want to die at home, but 75 percent die in a hospital or nursing home, and 18-20 percent of Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit.
- The cost for an average funeral in the U.S. is nearly $10,000. But despite the high cost, only about five percent of Americans pre-plan their funeral services.
- Less than half of all baby boomers have a will completed, even though legal fees for a simple will are only a few hundred dollars. The legal fees associated with finalizing an estate where there is no will or a poorly written will run in the thousands.
In order to ameliorate the above issues, talking about death and dying needs to be normalized – not shunned. Ms. Johnson suggests that a good place to start is to explore our own thoughts, feelings and experiences. She says, “Taking ownership of our own point of view empowers us to more fully participate in making meaningful decisions on our own behalf and that of those we love. The alternative is to continue to live in denial, fear, silence and paralysis.”
Have you ever thought about or, better yet, discussed your perspective on the following questions? If not, I would encourage you to do so.
- What do you think/believe happens when we die?
- When you think about death, how do you feel?
- If you could control your death, what would you want from it?
- Have you experienced the death of a loved one? If so, what was that like for you? How did it change you?
Such thoughts and discussions may feel uncomfortable at first. But, according to Ms. Johnson, “By breaking the silence within ourselves on this topic, we set the foundation for making decisions that are in alignment with our deepest beliefs and values about life and death. It is in claiming these values and beliefs that we are best able to meet our death on our own terms – with greater self-determination about such things as our end of life healthcare, the disposition of our belongings and the kind of end of life ritual that would be appropriate for us. It also supports us in coping with the death of our loved ones.”
Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.