It's Time To Talk About Death With Your Aging Parents

Valerie Howes
·2-min read

Thinking about the death of an aging parent is often sad and scary, and talking with your parent about it can feel like a daunting task. But especially now, during a global pandemic, where we’re seeing higher rates of illness and death among seniors, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

Toronto-based death doula Sandra Brunner says “You’re never really taught that it’s OK to have these conversations about things like people’s remains or their money or their home.” And added to that, she says, “in our society people often have a general fear of death.”

But the fact is, talking about death with your parents can actually decrease everyone’s anxieties. Encouraging your parents to think about what they want means you can help make sure their end-of-life wishes are respected. Brunner advises:

“If you don’t talk with your parents about what they want, there is the possibility you’ll be dealing with higher stress down the line, and you could end up having to manage weird family dynamics and conflicts around all the decisions that need to be made.”

Talking about feelings and beliefs about what happens after death, with your aging parent, may make them feel less afraid or alone.

Kicking off the conversation

So how do you launch into the death talk? It all depends on the relationship you have with your parent and their comfort level around the fact that one day they ― like all of us ― will die.

“You could start with saying something simple and direct like ’Just wondering if you have thought about your will, and if you have all your paperwork in order,” suggested Brunner. Explain that you’d like to help make things easier for them and ensure they have autonomy over such an important part of life.

Another approach is to bring up an item with sentimental value, and ask “Would you be willing to make sure this goes to me when you’re gone?” suggested Brunner. That could then lead to you asking “Do you have a list?” so you can...

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