Let’s talk about it.

With Sallie Tisdale at ABC studios for Life Matters
With Sallie Tisdale at ABC studios for Life Matters

Christine from Brisbane’s father died in August, so not that long ago, as she explained on Radio National yesterday.

She phoned in to speak on Hilary Harper’s Life Matters program: “Preparing for the loss of a loved one.”

Christine’s father had a stroke 18 months before and as his death drew closer, Christine realised she was the one he wanted to talk to about his impending death. She guesses that her father realised that emotionally, she was the one in the family who would best cope with listening to him, as he talked through his needs and attitudes, including what would happen to him after he died.

“He started becoming quite explicit about what he wanted when he died and very clear,” Christine said.

“It was an enormous blessing but it is quite confronting when someone wants to talk about these things.

“I found that there was no – I had no training, there was no guide, which is why it’s great that you’re having your guests on and that we talk about it more.

“I felt like I didn’t want to be so morbid as to go into the details but at the same time I felt it was something he really needed to talk about and wanted to talk about and I didn’t want to shut him down.”

Let’s have these conversations, to help the dying. Openly and honestly. Let’s get a few knotty issues, peculiar to our own family and circumstances sorted. When we’re young we can have these chats with our elders. When we’re older we can lead them with those who are younger. We don’t need to be obsessive or melodramatic. But we do need to talk.  We cannot know exactly what will happen when we die. But being a little prepared will be helpful.

In some ways it’s like birth. Only a short while ago in our culture, women were put in stirrups or anaesthetised as they were giving birth. Then birthing women started to take back control. We can’t predict the length of a labour and we don’t know how it will go, what complications or surprises there might be. But with less fear the experience is better for the mother and baby.

We can do the same with death.

To hear Hilary Harper’s interview with us on Life Matters, go to:

To buy a copy of A Good Death: a compassionate and practical guide to prepare for the end of life, go to:

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