Important to learn how to talk about death, dying and grief

Taboo topics

Sex and sexuality—the “facts of life”—were once taboo topics.

My mother was so uncomfortable with the topics, she simply left a book out for me to read when she thought the time was right. We never had “the talk.” Sex and sexuality were veiled in mystery and many pretended it didn’t happen.

That’s certainly changed. People are better informed and educated about this normal aspect of the life now. I love what my grandchildren know about sexuality and the procreative process. We can talk about it without discomfort. It’s refreshing.

Sex is a fact of life and learning about it, beyond rumour, myth and back-room whispers, is helpful. There’s more comfort in being able to talk about it and seek support with questions and challenges.

Whilst our society is more comfortable in discussing sexuality, we’ve still got room to grow in discussing other important facts of life—dying, death, and grief.

None of us gets out of this world alive. We’ll all experience grief, yet often know so little about it. Like sex, we’re better when we know more. As a society, we’re often so focussed on living we give very little thought to what happens at the end, or what happens when we lose a loved one.

Loss and grief can be isolating, just when we need support the most.

Death of a loved one can stop us dead in our tracks, turning our lives and emotions upside-down in the best of times.

Grief is often lonely, yet the pain of loss and grief has been magnified through the pandemic. Many have been left isolated in their grief as we’ve lost the ability to receive the important support of the usual rites and processes. People are suffering.

Grief’s not a predictable, neat process we emerge from after a set period of time. It’s often messy, affecting every level of our being, and it may show up in very unusual and confusing ways. Grief doesn’t wait until after a death to begin and often starts the moment a life-limiting diagnosis is received. Receiving wise support is essential, yet we often feel alone.

All too often, I hear people who feel abandoned by their friends when they need them most. People stay away in normal times due to their own discomfort with dying, death and grief. The restrictions of the pandemic have only increased the isolation.

Not only abandoned by friends, I used to abandon myself in grief, trying to stay busy to outrun the painful feelings. It didn’t work. Learning about grief has become a personal passion for me. I can now navigate my grief in a healthy, helpful way, making my life so much better, while allowing myself to be more present for others experiencing loss.

We can do better by learning more. Becoming knowledgeable about grief and how we can support ourselves and others is empowering, allowing us to give and receive the support that’s required.

Both the Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA) and the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) work to normalize conversations around the dying process and recognize grief and bereavement as a natural response to loss. They offer support to people experiencing grief across the spectrum.

COHA has experienced a greater number of younger people reaching out for support in recent months. In response, it has expanded its programs to meet the increased need, including expanded professional counselling services to include children and youths, as well as addressing topics such as anticipatory grief and navigating life when a loved-one is dying.

By offering vital pre-death and post-death support, the work COHA does is invaluable to our community. Donations can be made here.

November 14 is National Grief and Bereavement Day and CHPCA is offering programs of support.

A special grief and bereavement webinar is scheduled for Nov. 16 from 10 am. to 11 a.m., providing rich resources to the bereaved. It will also present a National Bereavement Day concert virtually, on Nov. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring musicians from every province and territory, to create space for grief and remembrance. These events are are free to attend, although donations will be appreciated.

Death, dying and grief are topics we need to discuss and learn more about to help us better navigate the inevitable pain of loss.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories