Dying Matters

by John Paradise  Lecturer on TA Psychotherapy Foundation Course

Dying matters blog post crop

Death and dying are something we know one day will come to us all.  As a psychotherapist, I am used to talking with people about matters that deeply impact a person’s life. Death and dying are certainly one of those taboos that in the culture I come from we don’t talk about and barely acknowledge.  The other taboos of course being sex and money. 

How might we begin to have conversations that can reveal some of our deepest fears or anxieties about loss, hurt and fear? What are the conversations you would want to have with people whom you love or are close to you, if you were not to see them again?  Much of what we hold in our minds on death and dying goes unspoken in our relationships. I remember when my own father was alive, trying to have a conversation with him about his death and what his wishes were upon his death, you know burial, cremation, type of service etc. His reply was ‘well just put me in a bin liner’! this was his way of saying I am not going to talk about this. Of course, such conversations require a large degree of sharing deeply personal parts of ourselves, in other words such conversations bring us to some intimacy with the other. This was not something my father found easy hence his not wishing to talk about it. Needless to say, upon his death we didn’t go down the bin liner route.  Open conversations about death helps families make important decisions regarding end-of-life care or those arrangements after death. 

Through my work I meet people who are scared of the process of dying or of being dead.  The deep existential fear that I suspect resides within many of us at the thought of death itself.  The understanding that of course death comes to us all one day might help us have important conversations about death and dying. I like to think of these conversations a bit like making a final will and testament.  Just, because we have made a will doesn’t mean we are about to die. Yet the existence of a will is hugely beneficial for those left behind, the living. I think that conversations about death and dying can be the same. It can on the one hand bring us closer together, and of course it lets those closest to us know our own wishes and thoughts. 

When we have experienced a significant bereavement, it can deeply impact us, it can be life changing for some people. Such loss can lead to us re-evaluating our life, in other words taking stock, working out what the real priorities are.  Grief, the emotion that accompanies a bereavement is natural. There is no right and wrong way to grieve, we each do this in our own unique way. Of course, there may be some similarities between people who are grieving. I think the important thing is to talk about what is happening and understand that is no time limit that applies.  

One day you won’t be here and how would you like to talk about that? What gets stirred up for you as you read this? Could this be the starting point for you to talk about dying? 

John Paradise 
Lecturer on TA Psychotherapy Foundation Course 
Certified Transactional Analyst (psychotherapy) 

Written May 2024

Course Venues:   Exeter   |   Poole

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