Road to the horizon

Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW

Though everyone eventually dies, it can be difficult to think about death and dying and many of
us avoid it as we go about our every day lives. During the pandemic, as communities all over
the world cope with the spread of covid-19, death may be much more present in your thoughts.
As the death toll rises around the globe, it becomes more impossible to deny the inevitability of
death. This can raise anxiety and create a sense of hopelessness.

In this moment, perhaps we can set aside our fears and consider some important thoughts.

Everyone Dies

Your loved ones will die, and you will too. Whether the cause of death is covid-19, heart
disease, stroke cancer, ALS, diabetes, old age, accident, suicide, homicide or anything else,
death comes to us all. This remains a fact of natural life even though medical knowledge, skill
and tools have made great advancements and we can prevent and treat so many more
illnesses and injuries than we could in the past.

Talking About Death Can Help Us Cope

When we are left alone with our fears they race around in our mind, growing and causing
distress. When we talk about our fears, we release tension. Discussion helps us shine light into
the shadows so that we can begin to see where our thinking might be distorted. Sharing our
worries and thoughts can help us to realize we are not alone. We may learn that many people
care about us and other people often worry about the very same things that we do. This is true
for the dying person as well as their family members and friends.

Being Prepared Can Decrease Distress

Dying happens in so many different ways, making it hard to prepare. When we discuss death
and dying with the people in our lives, we can prepare for the things that will be in our control.
We know what our loved ones hope for if the worst happens and they face imminent death.
Some desire a plan for their care that includes CPR, medication, defibrillation, ventilation, IV
fluids, feeding tubes or IV nutrition. Others feel very strongly that they do not want life-
prolonging measures implemented if they become incapacitated and near death with little or no
chance of recovery. When a loved one becomes incapacitated by illness or injury, it can ease
distress to know that we are respecting their wishes.

Conversations About Death Can Help Us Grieve

We know everyone will die. We might have some time to prepare for a death, or we might not. If
we have accepted death as a fact of life, and we discuss it regularly with our family and friends,
we may be more accepting of death when it comes. Engaging in conversations about death can
facilitate our movement through anticipatory grief in a healthy way that helps us feel more
tolerant of the fact of death, however it comes. Grief is most often traumatic when death is
sudden, unexpected and sometimes violent. Talking about the possibility of death and dying
throughout life can help the bereaved adapt to loss even under these very difficult
circumstances.