Talking about Death

Death. It’s one of the issues that we personal biographers are trained to address with clients in interviews. We become accustomed to asking straightforward questions and discussing the topic with ease. We’re personal biographers after all. We don’t shy away from the heavy stuff.

Recently, my elderly client died. Flo was her name and I wrote about her in my last blog. In her final months, as her decline was obvious, I asked her directly, “How do you feel about dying?”

Her answer was both shocking and not.

“I’m ready. I’m looking forward to it. It’s time.”

She didn’t want a big funeral and she shared her thoughts about the afterlife.

Experts advise that those who are actively dying want to talk about their death. Our clients often have no one else to confide in about the subject and it is our job to allow them to share their feelings. We must discuss death because we owe it to our clients.

What I didn’t realize is that I also owed it to myself to ask these questions. Flo’s death—while not unexpected—was still sad. There’s no avoiding that. But there was a solace in knowing how she felt. In the aftermath of her death, there were no questions.

Clearly, if Flo had been younger, afflicted by a terrible disease in her prime, it would have been more difficult. Those who die prematurely, with young families and young careers, have a much greater emotional precipice to climb. But regardless of the situation, conversing about imminent death relieves all. Of this, I am certain.

Address death when you write your life story. How you feel about it, what you expect from it. And if you’re interviewing a loved one, please don’t ignore the issue. Those who are dying want to share their feelings. And the truth is, you’ll benefit from what they say too.

If you’d like help writing your life story—or the life story of someone you love—please contact me directly. It would be my honor to assist you in any way you’d like.