Death Phobia 101
Diagnosed Mortal #10
This post is about the consequence of not talking about difficult things. In truth, talking about things not usually expressed is liberating when done well. There are ways to better understand the modern realities around death and protect the hearts and minds of ourselves and those we love without trauma.
The culture may let us down but we don't have to huddle in the shadows with the masses if we want to be free of the victimization of the times. The truth is modern medicine has the ability now to keep a body alive indefinitely. They also have a mandate to do so as sworn to by a Hippocratic oath. We did not used to have to face these kinds of dilemmas when we had no control over these things... but now....we sometimes have to make some really alarming decisions. They are made doubly hard when we haven't given it much thought or have been in denial about the realities that must be faced in these situations. You throw a religious sanction that underwrites all of the funding for the medical facility you're dealing with on top of that and there is rough water ahead for the uninitiated.
We start with the children.
Other cultures do a much better job orienting children to the facts of death. It is a great gift for a parent to introduce their child to mortality being natural as it presents itself to the child (usually through a pet or friend or grandparent dying). Because the general culture is death phobic and youth-centric there are a lot of mixed messages a child can receive and it is of benefit to help a child navigate these. There are a growing number of children's books that can be found in the library that help children better understand what they are feeling about mortality. Not everyone is given to this kind of teaching so I would like to introduce you to a small film as a place to start with your little one:
The next very, very hard thing that needs to be realized is that younger people die. Here is the tricky bit about that: It makes it even harder in a death phobic culture to let the younger person go when they are beyond recovery. I don't mean roughed up; I mean brain dead. It is one thing to pull the plug on an 80 year old and quite another to consider the same for an incapacitated 5, 15, 25 or 35 year old who should, to our thinking, have an entire life left to live. Well, though it sounds harsh, it is not our call BUT we have the medical ability to make it our call and often people who are called off line in their human lifetime are strapped to a table as a vegetable because the forces that be - whether the family or the medical facility - can't or won't let go.
In this audio file I share some tips on how to navigate an established death phobic society through casual, open conversations and making an Advanced Directive. Thank you for listening.
My music choice: Dr. Zubin Damania (also known as ZDoggMD) made the following video in his unique style of getting a message across. I hope you will hear him out here because this tragedy happens too often. He is passionate about having to field nonsense from people who have not taken the time to examine this issue of health care and death in their lives. , I'll warn you it is harsh, and if you are currently struggling with this very emotional issue, you might want to wait in watching it. Still, I encourage you to appreciate and bear it for the sake of its honesty and to take this issue seriously. Thank you for watching.
You can find more information about Death Cafe here and find a local chapter, too.
Please notify me if you would like to complete an Advance Directive . I would be glad to try and help you set something up in your state.
~For the curious: this Blogpost explains my motivation and intention for this series of 20 essays in the Diagnosed Mortal series~