Do you ever talk about death? Death can be a very difficult thing to discuss, and for many people, it’s taboo. Why is that? Talking about death can be frightening because it causes us to think about our own mortality. However, talking about it can also decrease fear, empowering us to live more fully.  

It may be difficult at first, but you can find different ways to work conversation about death into your everyday life.  

  • Teach children about death from an early age. Children are aware that things die. They see bugs die, they experience the death of cherished pets and beloved grandparents. The best thing we can do for them is to speak plainly and honestly about death, avoiding euphemisms and explaining it in a way they can easily understand.  
  • Share your own thoughts with loved ones. Death is a life event we’re all going to experience, and if we discuss it in our everyday lives we give ourselves the opportunity to share something important about ourselves to people who matter most.  
  • Encourage others to tell their thoughts about death and dying. Don’t wait until death is imminent to have this conversation. One interesting idea that’s gaining popularity is the Death Café, a group discussion of death over dinner, meant to increase awareness of death to help people live their lives more fully. It’s a social franchise, and by visiting the Death Café website you can learn how to host your own or find one in your area to join since there are currently nearly 7,000 being held worldwide.   
  • Share movies and books about death to help you embrace the conversation. Books like Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Velveteen Rabbit help us to have conversations about death to our children. For adults, there are books that talk about everything from bereavement to choosing a career as a funeral director. Find the ones that interest you and use them to start conversations with your friends. You might consider Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, Curtains by Tom Jokinen, Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, or Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. 
  • Talk about your wishes for your own end-of-life arrangements. How do you want to be remembered? More practically, how do you want to be memorialized? When you talk about these things with your loved ones, you give them the opportunity to experience a healthy bereavement when you die, knowing how to honor your legacy.  

Preplanning is a helpful way to get the conversation started. If you have an older loved one, you might ask about his or her wishes and offer to help preplan. On the other hand, no matter what your age, you can preplan for your own death and funeral. When you create your own end-of-life plan, you ease the burden on your loved ones by clearly expressing your wishes so they won’t have to make hard decisions during an already stressful time. Preplanning gives those who love you the opportunity to grieve for you without wondering if they’re doing what you would have wanted.