Recent research conducted by medical professionals seems to suggest that talking about death can lead to a happier life. Although talking about death is not common, experts suggest that a level of openness about ‘the end’ can help people lead a happier, more rewarding and generally relaxed life.
Alex Broom, a UNSW professor of sociology, says that the casual discussion of death is important for development and offers an enhanced understanding of the importance of life. Professor Broom discussed the issue with the ABC, noting that the reticence to discuss the issue before death could lead to greater dissatisfaction in older life. “It’s not just about dying, it’s about the living,” Prof. Broom said. “We are all going to face death over and over again throughout our lives. We need to prepare for it so it’s not an ongoing challenge.”
For the sociologist, life and death are inextricably linked; he adds that many people choose to ignore the spectre of death and the reality of their own mortality. “We shouldn’t remove those two things because they work in tandem,” he said, referring to life and death. “On a practical level, if we aren’t open about what’s happening and aren’t aware of what’s happening, then we can’t control all the circumstance in which is happens.”
New developments such as the ‘Death Cafe’ movement- in which healthy people meet up to discuss issues of mortality with other like-minded individuals- are also worth investigating, as the researcher suggests that the discussions offer real-life benefits to those who engage in a discussion about death.
In Prof. Broom’s opinion, the discussion may help clarify attitudes towards difficult decisions often faced later in life. “We all have different needs at end of life — not one model fits all,” he told the ABC. “We might not know what [those needs] are if they haven’t been talked about. Faced with our own end and mortality, fear drives it underground which means we get the emergence of taboo.”
To curb the development of a ‘death taboo’, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has urged all Australians to contact their GP during ‘Family Doctor Week’ in order to discuss issues related to death, dying and aged care. The discussion might seem impertinent, but (as the poet Burns once mused) the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
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