LIFE

Australia Really Needs To Learn To Talk About Death

It’s inevitable, so why are we so scared to discuss it?

13/10/2016 6:15 AM AEDT | Updated 13/10/2016 10:04 AM AEDT
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Death and taxes, as they say.

When was the last time you had a conversation about death? We mean really talked about your own death, or a loved one passing away? It's probably only ever been discussed briefly, if at all.

Although it's inevitable (and one of life's few certainties -- 'death and taxes' so they saying goes), society in general has an aversion to discussing death, let alone planning for it. Often it's not until we have a personal experience with death that we give any serious thought to our own life and our mortality.

Molly Carlile wants Australia to change that. A leader in the world of palliative care, Carlile is an author and speaker, aptly known as the Deathtalker. She believes the more we talk about death the less we fear.

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Talking about death is the first step to dissolving the fear associated with it.

"It is my belief that if we can explore our fears about death and talk openly and honestly with the people we love, we can build informed, empowered and compassionate communities," Carlile told The Huffington Post Australia.

The author of three books (the first two being Jelly Bean's Secret, published in 2004 which explores a tale of death to educate children and Sometimes Life Sucks, a book aimed at teens), her latest book explores a common sense approach to issues we should be thinking about so we can 'live and die well'.

Titled The Death Talker, Carlile acknowledges that a book about death is not the most appealing thing people want to reach for at the local bookshop.

"Our fear of mortality permeates every aspect of our lives and in modern Western culture, death has become almost invisible -- hidden away, it is rarely discussed but at the same time it seems to haunt our subconscious," Carlile said.

"And yet, from the moment of our birth, each and everyone one of us is edging ever closer to our eventual death and most of us spend very little time thinking about what this inevitable ending means for how we live our lives."

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Do you know how your family wants to tackle death when it happens?

Carlile is also a big advocate for having a death plan. She makes a great point that we plan for all other milestones in our lives, so why not our death? Aside from tragedies in which young people are taken too soon, we can plan for our passing in old age, and should do so according to our personal wishes and the wishes of our loved ones. But these wishes can only be known if, again, we talk about death.

Carlile wants to encourage people and families to put the awkwardness aside and tackle the topic by having meaningful conversations. The book offers practical advice on talking about death but also types of death, including terminal illness and when death happens unexpectedly. It covers funerals, after death care as well as understanding grief, loss and bereavement.

In the book Carlile makes a point of noting that it is written with a western Anglo-celtic viewpoint, as that is her own personal reality. Culture, language and life experience include how we each understand death, and how we deal with it. Many indigenous cultures have managed to retain historical practices in the midst of the modern, secular world.

Think about it. The unknown is scary, so why not get to know death?

The Death Talker, $29.99, is available for purchase now.

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