Did you ever think about your own Death?
“Am I going to die?”
My patient sat motionless in front of me. Her eyes got bigger and bigger, and tears began to spill down her face.
Most patients don’t dare to ask this question. But in their minds, when they first hear their diagnosis, they die a thousand-fold – even when it’s not their time, yet.
Patients expect their doctors to have the answers; they expect us to know about death and dying. Yet, our youth-obsessed culture refuses to acknowledge that our physical form, our lives, eventually come to an end. Death is the thing no one talks about. It’s uncomfortable, so we push it out of our minds and deny the truth.
Until a diagnosis comes, and the truth is all that’s left. Then, patients look to their doctors, pleading for answers to unanswerable questions.
No wonder so many physicians are as afraid of talking about death as their patients are.
Nevertheless, as a physician who sees patient’s reactions when they first hear their diagnosis, I believe all of us should examine our fears around death.
Ask yourself what makes the topic uncomfortable. Is it about pain or about losing control? Or is it fear of the unknown? What makes you cringe inside when you think about it?
Find someone you can talk to. Write in your journal about your thoughts and fears. Talk to your partner, a friend, a doctor. Don’t be shy.
This topic makes people extremely uncomfortable, but talk about it anyway. Realizing that death is a part of life, and it is universal and inevitable may take some of the angst away.
The more you disconnect, the more you are afraid and powerless by it. And who knows, you might decide that now is the time to start living more fully because, ultimately, for all of us, there is an end to the story.