Recently I had a conversation with someone very close to me who was commenting on the fact that I often talk about capturing a portrait of someone before they pass away. This person was unsettled and uncomfortable and is they were suggesting I change to talk about something positive instead. How to do that I will address in another post it made me realize that as a society we don’t like to talk about death. I already knew this in my previous career as a Life Insurance agent and remember that brought all kinds of conversations back to my mind.
I remember getting a call one day in my old job from a client who receives a letter in the mail from a company and they were inquiring about why would they need Life Insurance. She, this caller, did not want to address the fact one day she will die. Her reaction was I won’t be here so what do I care? The call avoidance by the way. But back to my topic, I realize that speaking about Life Insurance is the core of death and dying. So it is interesting that in my current profession as a portrait photographer, this topic is very relevant as well.
But wait, that is what I do!
How do I talk about it without talking about it?
If you are in a life insurance field, mortuary field, health insurance field, elder law attorney, all of those careers involve speaking to their clients about death on a daily basis.
So why is it that as a society to a one to talk about death? And how do we change it?
It is Unsettling to think about Death
One reason could be that it is unsettling to think about the fact that we or someone that we love will die. The idea that something as important as our life will end one day is very uncomfortable for many people.
We feel Unprepared
The other reason could be that we feel unprepared. We have a lot of things that we still would like to get accomplished, and the idea that we may not have enough time is very scary.
We feel Unaccomplished
It makes us feel that we are not accomplished. That we do not have enough time. That no matter how much we try, we just don’t have enough time so why bother. Most of us subconsciously barely that as a soul we live for a long time regardless of all age or health of our body.
So what do we do?
So what do we do? We avoid what we don’t like to think about. We ignore it, we pretend that it isn’t there, and we hope that it will go away all by itself.
It depends on the type of person that you are.
Some people address things they fear head-on. Some people face their fears. Others find ways to be comfortable with their discomfort by talking about it and be upset by it but not actually finding a solution.
So, what do other cultures do? They talk about death openly. Maybe because it is part of life? It is as natural as living, or maybe because eventually, it will happen to everyone so we might as well be prepared for it. Or maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you feel better having you faced your fears.
A coaching program that I am a part of, a nonprofit organization the Suncoast kids place in Tampa Florida often talks about addressing the issue head on using the big adult words:
Instead of pass away using the word death and dying
Instead of my dad has gone to heaven say my dad was killed or shot or murdered
Instead of it’ll be OK, don’t’ say anything at all, just let them process it on their own.
Instead are my sister has gone away say she got cancer and she died.
By doing this, by calling the action by its right name or by the right word, I learned that this helps for people and children to face the situation head-on and to accept the emotion associated with what has happened. Also, this makes it easier to let the emotion go. If you are angry, we should not fear to let the anger out in a safe way. If you are sad, it’s OK to be sad. If this makes you scream, then you should scream (in a safe place).
Having Faced Your Fears
At the end of the day, having faced the emotion and having faced the fear of death, it will help you live better. Wow, really? Can that really happen?
“Yes, absolutely. Have you ever faced any of your other fears and you felt better after?”
So instead of avoiding, what if you could actually do something about it? You could live the life or your dreams? You could use the courage that this gives you and go and make a change? A major change if that’s what’s required? What if you could use this emotion to help somebody else?
What if facing your fear of death has a MAJOR change on your life? Wouldn’t it be all worth it then?