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How to Finally Accept Death & Cope With Mortality

This is part of Cake's collection of End of life planning Important conversations articles. Create a Cake profile for free to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.

End-of-life care educator and grief worker

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There is a 100 percent chance that we are all going to die. While we know this and hear about death in all its forms, the topic of death is still taboo. In some societies, many individuals don't start thinking about death until it shows up at their doorstep.

This is usually in the form of a loss of a family member, pet, or friend. Some choose to ignore or refuse the idea of death until they receive a life-threatening diagnosis. 

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Accepting our mortality and embracing death isn't as scary as it sounds. By learning more about the mystery of death and choosing to explore acceptance, we discover that it helps us to be more present in our daily life. 

Death has a lot to teach us and accepting it is the first step in the process. You might be facing a terminal diagnosis or interested in coming to terms with your death. Regardless of your situation, it's never too early to start talking about death. 

Here are some actions to help you embrace and focus on this important topic.

Talk About It 

Talking about death does not speed up the process of death. Death is not a taboo word, and uttering it will not bring you face-to-face with the grim reaper. Contemplate death and talk about it with others who share the same values. You don't have to be sick or know a dying loved one to start having this conversation.

Death is unpredictable and by embracing it now, we learn tools for how to cope when the time comes. There is a lot of unknown that comes with death and when we educate ourselves, we confront and lessen the fears about it.

Invite your friends or family to sit down and have a conversation about death with you. If your family isn't as open to having this type of conversation yet, you can attend a death cafe in your local community. Death cafes provide a safe space to talk about death. It's a place to share your feelings and thoughts about your death and the death of others. 

Death is something we all have in common and talking about it helps to erase the taboo around it.

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Read About Death 

When we fear things, it is often because we don't understand or know very much about the topic. Death is something that people think about every day but they don't take the time to research. Reading articles and books on death can help expand our minds and hearts on this sensitive topic. 

By taking the time to read books about death, we allow ourselves to take in new information and to form ideas around the topic. There are books on death pre-planning, the death positive movement, caring for a dying loved one, coping with death and much more. 

Ask Questions 

When we take the time to ask questions, we can learn a lot. Death is something people may feel shy to ask questions about, but it's important to still ask. It's natural to be curious about death and even scared of it in the beginning. When you ask important questions about the end of life, you expand your mind and heart on the topic. 

Here are some questions you may find yourself asking:

  • What happens when we die?
  • What does death look like?
  • Is it normal to be afraid of death?
  • How do I feel about death?
  • Do my friends and loved ones think about their death?

Let the questions arise and try not to judge them. It's okay to sit with the questions and not have the answers right away. When we have active questions, we continue to learn. Death has so much to teach us and it's best to remain open to the questions and the answers. 

Visit a Funeral Home or Cemetery  

For some of us, it may help to visit a place where death is present. Cemeteries and funeral homes are places you can visit if you are looking for this experience. Funeral homes will welcome you and educate you about death pre-planning.

This is an opportunity to be in the physical presence of death to see what feelings and thoughts arise for you. Many funeral homes will host community educational events that you can attend. 

Journal About Death 

 If you have thoughts or feelings about death that scare or intimidate you, you can start to write about it. Writing about death is cathartic and can help you relieve your anxieties about the topic.

This type of journaling does not need to have a structure to it. It can be in a form of poetry, song, or any other type of writing. Allow it to be a stream of consciousness so that you can get your thoughts about death onto paper. Seeing thoughts on paper can help release and process emotions of the fears around death.

Proactive End-of-Life Planning

The best way to come to terms with death is to confront it. Death isn’t intended to be something scary, it a part of the natural life cycle. Planning your funeral or celebration of life in advance is a great exercise to work come to terms with death. 

What songs do you want to play at your funeral? Do you want to be cremated or buried? Who do you want to attend your service? Do you want to have a wake

These are all excellent questions to ask yourself. Take the time to record your answers to these questions for your family members. Planning for one’s death can be very freeing and allow us to live a more fuller life. Instead of avoiding a topic that society turns away from, try turning towards it. 

Even if you are not facing a terminal diagnosis, you can still plan for death. In the last ten years, it has become more popular for people to plan their death ahead of time. It is more cost-effective and it allows you to communicate your wants. It's never too soon to plan this process. 

Though we don't know when or how we will die, planning our funeral is something that can make the process easier when it does happen.

Attend a Class or Workshop 

Courses and workshops on death are available in many cities. This is an excellent opportunity to work with an expert on the topic of death and dying within a learning space. Formal classes in local colleges, online courses, and weekend workshops are also valuable places to learn more. 

For some, this more formal and structured way to confront death is very helpful. These classes and workshops provide education and exercises to help process the topic.

Have a Living Funeral  

A living funeral is an opportunity for you to plan your funeral and take part in the celebration of life. This alternative funeral method happens before you die. The idea is to plan a funeral or celebration of life and then be present at this event. Instead of people paying their respects or saying goodbye when you are dead, they can do it while you are living. A living funeral encourages the celebration of life and it can help you and others come to terms with death. 

You will have lots of opportunities to confront death while you are planning the event. At the event, the hope is that you will come to terms with your impending death. It's a special time for you to say goodbye, have fun and laugh with loved ones, and to let them know how much you love them. By embracing death with intention, you may find that you are easing into the acceptance of death.

Host a Death Dinner 

A death dinner is a great way to approach the topic of death. The idea of the dinner is to gather your friends and family to discuss death. It can be an informal dinner with a potluck style or a more formal sitdown meal.

You can also have it catered. The premise is to share a meal and your feelings about death. It’s a wonderful way to encourage family and friends to begin talking about death. 

Prayer and Meditation  

If you are religious or spiritual, spend some time in quiet contemplation of death. There are many bible scriptures and spiritual quotes that embrace death and the afterlife.

You can read these out loud and meditate on them. Writing some of the quotes or scriptures out and posting them in a prayer space can be supportive. Meditating and praying about death can help ease your fears and concerns. 

Talk with the Bereaved 

Talking with people who have been intimate with death can be a valuable resource. Bereaved families have firsthand experience and knowledge about the end-of-life process. They can help paint a picture of what it is like to be around someone who is dying.

Though no death is the same, it is helpful to hear about others’ experiences with death, and know that it isn't something to fear. This can also help the bereaved process their grief and embrace their mortality. 

Embracing Death Helps Us Live More Fully 

By welcoming the topic of death into our lives, we begin to be more present. When we begin this moment-to-moment practice of living, we are inviting everything into our lives. Including death. 

Accepting death has the power to transform the way we view our everyday life experiences. Death has a lot to teach us about living. We are mortal beings and when we welcome death as a part of life, we can learn to see that the circle of life is indeed beautiful.