COVID-19 has us all thinking about the same thing: Death

We are thinking of death in one form or another: death in numbers, death in its potential, and death as a threat. Death has crept into the back of our minds and taken up residence.

For many of us, even those who are accustomed to talking about death or consider themselves “death positive,” the topic of death might suddenly feel taboo, too real, too grim.

However, I’ve seen over and over again that lasting peace of mind comes from talking about death, voicing one’s concerns, and making plans for end of life – whether it’s yours or your loved one’s.

You may say to yourself, “When my friends and family are already scared and anxious, should I really be bringing up burials and funerals? Aren’t I going to scare them?”

You might, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I have actually found that with the backdrop of the pandemic I have been able to have more conversations with patients and family about death prior to this crisis.

So to help you navigate talking death in the time of COVID-19, here are a few questions you can begin to ask:

  • “Things are bizarre right now. I’ve personally been feeling a little anxious about death and mortality lately. How are you hanging in there?
  • “I’m always here for you if you want to talk about any fears you have about death, illness, mortality, whatever – reach out whenever you want.”
  • “With all the information that’s being posted about COVID-19 and death lately, it’s hard to process it all, and it can be kind of scary. I know this isn’t the most FUN topic, but what are your thoughts if you contracted COVID-19 and needed to be placed on life support?”
  • “I know what’s happening in the world is probably bringing up some thoughts about death that are not easy to think about. Do you want to talk about it?”

And perhaps the most important thing you can say to your loved ones when talking about death is:

“When you’re ready to stop talking about this today, just let me know and we’ll change the subject or do something else.”

Death – if you’ve never really talked about it before – is a lot to process. Don’t short circuit someone’s brain the first time around!

It’s all about empowering your loved ones to feel like they have some control over the death conversation in a world that feels very much out of control. Empower them to ask questions but also to set boundaries.

If your loved ones have a positive experience talking about death with you, one that is honest and affirming, they may very likely want to continue the conversation later.