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I Could Just Die


Death. One of several subjects most of us are reluctant to discuss. However, unlike other topics, a discussion of death brings up feelings about our own mortality. It scares us to …well… death. Cultural anthropologists have often found much can be learned about a culture by how it treats its dead.

Death is a life cycle event. All living things come to an end. Most of the time we just don’t know exactly when. Besides, ask yourself if you would REALLY like to know exactly when you or someone close to you was going to expire. Ah, yes. The old euphemisms - expire, pass, pass on, decease, kick the bucket, croak, etc. We have such a way of describing death and dying. Many even think of discussing death as morbid, macabre or ghoulish.

Usually as one ages, there is more exposure to death, or at least that is the way it is supposed to be. We certainly have more difficulty when a young life is cut short. But denying death creates its own set of problems. Adult to adult, when death comes with no preparation, it throws survivors into chaos. We run to mortuaries, emotions on our sleeves, trying to do whatever we think is right at the moment. How much easier it would be on everyone if preparations were made in advance, especially as one gets older.

Many do not know how to approach children with the subject. Should my child be told so-and-so is going to die or has died? Should my child go to the funeral? What is the right age?

Those around him or her will dictate by actions how a child reacts to death. A child will get cues from the adults on how to behave, what to do or what to say. Often, in an effort to protect a child, adults do not allow time for closure, for the child to say his or her good-byes. Death should be discussed, albeit in an age-appropriate manner. Having a child give something to place in the casket and receive something memorable owned by the loved one helps with closure.

People grieve in different ways. Just because someone does not break down and cry hysterically does not mean that person is not in pain. Conversely, especially for men, it is not a sign of weakness to cry. Laughing and crying are universal expressions of emotions. Nevertheless, some cultures regard the public display of emotions as disrespectful or as a sign of weakness. These considerations have to be taken into account whenever death takes place. There is no one proper way to handle it.

As with most issues, the best way to handle death is honestly and openly. Openness and candor, when combined with sensitivity and respect, have a way of salving the emotional hurt and nurturing people back to health. We LEARN how to treat death. Be a good educator, especially where children are involved.

Until next time, this is Dr. Andrew telling you to “Be kind to yourself.”

Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.

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