What does it mean to die? What are our greatest concerns about dying, and how can we address them?
Common concerns range from very simple, practical details to profound existential questions that humans have been exploring throughout our history.
Talking in small groups about our anticipation of death–weather our own or the death of someone we love–supports us as we connect with our own deepest truths. And it also enables us to be a supportive presence to others. These discussions are always thoughtful, warm, and respectful, and always range from the poignant to the practical, to the wise and the wonderful.
Whether we are young or old, healthy or ill, conversations about death in community enable us to explore and express our own spiritual truths, and to glean knowledge and insight from ourselves and others related to the most pivotal event in life. In doing so, our relationship to death and to life is transformed.
Death comes in its own time and its own way – children die, young people die, folks in middle age and old age die. Our ability to be present to death has an immeasurable impact on our ability to be fully present for life. When we embrace the poignance, beauty, and mystery of this full circle, the preciousness of life is profoundly enriched, and our ability to be loving and present for others shines.
These conversations invite us to reflect on many questions, whether in dialogue or privately:
- How have grief and loss affected my life?
- How can I prepare for a peaceful, loving end of life?
- What do I believe about death and about life?
- What rights do we have when a loved one dies?
- Do those who love me know my wishes? Do I know theirs?
- What rituals and ceremonies can help me in considering death and honoring death?
- Do I have the resources I need to help navigate this territory?
Knowing our wishes, and understanding our rights and responsibilities, makes a world of difference when a death occurs. Whether we’re anticipating the death of a partner, parent, child, or friend, or our own death, by exploring our relationship to death in advance, we ease suffering – our own and that of others – and soften the burden of decisions and uncertainty at the moment of loss, for ourselves and loved ones who are grieving.
Bringing these conversations into community – rather than in medical settings, therapy offices, religious institutions, or academia – enriches our lives and brings the full circle of our human experience into a place of relationship and love.