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Sandra Dean – Registered Member


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Thoughts surrounding living with mortality; dealing with the idea of our own death and the death of those we love

Live life*Trigger warning! Please note: this is a tough topic, so please take care of yourself if you wish to read and stop reading if it affects you negatively*

Mortality and death…

How much do we talk about it?

How much do we think about it?

  • Our own mortality?
  • The mortality of those we love?

Probably not enough.

We talk more freely, these days, about our mental health, our sexuality, and other topics that have carried stigma in the past, which is great. So, why are we not talking about our mortality when the one sure thing for every single person on the planet, and something we all share, is our impending death?

I have just been on a workshop on ‘Living with Mortality’ and I must say, in spite of thinking I felt perfectly OK about my own mortality, the content of the workshop sent me into a complete state of sadness and trauma, as it triggered memories and thoughts from my personal life and clinical work. It sure is a difficult subject! It also takes us all to very different places emotionally when we are thinking about or experiencing the death of others’ or thinking about our own death.

Mortality (life and death) covers the idea of life or death as well… For example, the decision between life and death a pregnant woman makes – whether to allow an embryo to develop eventually growing into fetus and it’s birth, or to have an abortion and not let it develop. It is a huge decision. Or coping with being told we have a life-threatening disease, or a disease that we know will cause our death in the not so far away future.

When we are young death seems so far away, yet when middle aged, the idea of death can start to cloud our thoughts. The older we get, the nearer to it we are. But how near? We could worry at 60 years old and live until we are 103. Or we could not care at all about our mortality and be struck down dead in an accident at a young age. So, do we prepare for our impending death, or not?

So many questions already.

What a difference it can make when someone can talk openly about their nearing death to loved ones and prepare for it; organise a will, articulate what they want, or even buy their own funeral package (as my own father has recently). It can also help us to appreciate the life we have while we have it. We don’t really need to hear bad news about someone in order to make a bucket list, or to enjoy the small things in life and people around us, yet it seems that it takes news of a death or near death to jumpstart many people into making the most of their lives.

How much do you make of your own life? Do you exist? Do you live life to the full? Could you do more? Could you appreciate others’ more?

Some thoughts, fears and questions around the mortality of those we love…

  • They will no longer be here for me – I will be left behind
  • What will I be left with?
  • I do not want them to suffer
  • How can I let them suffer? (preservation of life vs their suffering)
  • How will I cope with their suffering or with them on their death bed?
  • How do I say goodbye?
  • Should I help plan for their death/funeral etc?
  • Is there support I can offer or get for them? How will I do this?
  • What will I feel?
  • How will they feel?
  • Will I be able to cope?
  • Will they be able to cope?
  • Will I have any regrets?
  • Do they have any regrets?
  • Will they tell me if they are unwell?
  • I have no control over anyone’s mortality
  • If I don’t stay close or care, maybe I won’t get hurt?
  • It’s not fair.
  • It won’t happen to them – denial.
  • I will go first.

 

Some thoughts, fears and questions we may have for our own mortality…

  • Fear of just not existing anymore
  • Suffering before death (via disease, accident, pain etc)
  • Saying goodbye if I have the chance to – how?
  • Planning a will – what have I got and who do I want to have it?
  • Planning my funeral or what I want to happen when I am gone.
  • Will anyone be there when I die, or will I die alone?
  • What will I feel? (if there is time to feel)
  • How will I be remembered?
  • Will I be remembered?
  • Will I have regrets?
  • Would I tell others if I got terminally ill? If so, how?
  • Losing control – ultimately, I have no choice on whether I die or not, only when. (But I can look after myself)
  • What’s the point?
  • Worries about who I will leave behind and how they will be.
  • It’s not fair.
  • It won’t happen to me.

 

If we can get over any of these fears now, the better prepared we may be for the outcomes – for ourselves or others. It is also possible we may be able to live our lives to the best of our abilities if we appreciate and accept our mortality, and the mortality of others.

Live life now!

Are we content with our job, our relationships and how we spend our time? If not, maybe we can do something about it and have no regrets.

My mother passed away in February of this year. I watched her extremely slow and long decline from Schizophrenia, into the very last stage of Vascular Dementia. I witnessed her denial and the loneliness dementia caused her, her anger and desperation at going into a care home, her depression and then her acceptance that she would not get better. And then I watched her slowly die. It was the most difficult time of my life thus far, and I have tried to live even better than before, look after myself better and enjoy those I love more since her death, but I still need to work on it, as well as knowing she is probably not the last person I will say goodbye to. I need to prepare for that.

I wrote a poem about my mum’s death, if you would like to read it CLICK HERE

Take care and look after yourself. 😊

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