The Forbidden Topic: Death
As we begin our lives as adults, dying is about the furthest thought from our mind. We wrap our lives around school, work, partnership, friendships, finances and diapers. Then life really begins. The challenges, big challenges, teach us strength we never knew we had and life long lessons to propel our lives onward. Dying is one of those big challenges we all experience and expect later on in life. However, a sudden, unexpected death can be our biggest challenge of all. I’ll save that scenario for another time because it really is different when people die before the age of 50 or even 60.
Statistically, 70% of those over the age of 60 do not have medical directives in place. The statistic is even higher among African-Americans and other ethnic groups. This stunning statistic is a clear indication that, as a culture and nation, dying is a forbidden topic of conversation. It is so off limits that we don’t even discuss it with our life partner, parents, and adult children. The subject of dying is rarely a part of the conversation with our primary care doctor.
As adults, watching our parents grow old and taking on the responsibility of their care when the time comes (and it is coming), can be the greatest life lesson that teaches us how to direct our own end-of-life care. The reality is that the subject of advance directives is not yet a standard part of most medical examinations. It is important that advance directive discussions become routine between doctors, nurses, and other key health providers and their patients, because the more normal the topic is, the less scary it will become.
Dying is part of our circle of life and it is something that connects us as a human race. It raises the vibration of compassion between us. It strengths our ability give our love to another human being. It connects us like the air we share and breathe.
Today, I partner with hospice programs to bring touch therapy to hospice patients as they transition into an active stage of dying. I am a massage therapist for people of all ages. My 25 years in the healing arts field has taught me well about modifying care according to the person before me. Compassionate Touch Therapy (CTT) is the gold standard of touch therapy for the medically frail, elderly, and disabled. This wonderful approach to care, supported by the research out of Stanford University, is actually known as the science of compassion which students and professor study with vigor. CTT aids in the relief of pain and reduces anxiety to hospice patients during their final six months of life and anytime our loved ones need more dependent care.
My experiences with my own family members allowed me to experience what we hear most of the time: “ Hospice care was extraordinary and I wish I would have asked for it sooner for my loved one.” Caring for my parents with the assistance of hospice care allowed a very sad experience to become a little easier to handle during and after my parents died.
Comforting our grieving relatives and friends should be an acceptable part of our human interaction. Let’s allow our selves and others to make sense of this foreign language called dying though compassionate touch, music, art, and conversation.
Cindy Spake, B.S.Ed., Licensed Massage Therapist Compassionate Touch Practitioner
The Forbidden Topic: Death