Friday, July 19, 2013

Looking for help on how to talk to my father about death

I'm looking for help on how to talk to my father about death: has anyone else had to broach a difficult subject with a loved one? My Dad was diagnosed with myeloma in January and has been in denial ever since. I would like to be able to talk to him about what he thinks happens after death - it's a subject that has never been discussed in our family. 

What I want to say is, "Dad, what do you think happens when we die?" but I have fear of upsetting him because he will get emotional in front of me which he does not like. My parents were born in the 1930s which is only relevant because they were each brought up in families which did not discuss difficult or emotional issues. My mum still believes the best way to deal with difficult situations (like my fathers illness) is to smile and not make a fuss.

That is her way of dealing with it and I haven't pushed things, thinking at some point we'll have to talk about the development of the disease and prepare for the future, but any attempts to discuss the subject are met with flat denial. My dad says "I'm not dying, that's not what the doctor said", despite the fact that he has a terminal cancer. The cancer WILL kill him unless something else does first, isn't that the definition of dying?

Of course in that regard we're all dying. I'm aware that I will die and I've done contemplation meditation to walk myself through it, I think it's natural to prepare for your death as you would a birth or marriage; I'm concerned that this inability to talk or think about death will make my father's death a frightening experience for him. I'd love to be able to help him to a place of calm before or during his death, but if we can't even talk about it how can it happen...???


  1. Begin with acceptance. It is impossible to know what this is like for your father because it is from an outsiders perspective. Be respectful of his desire not to talk about it , but be authentic as well. Let him know that you are there for him if and when he decides to. Then explore your own feelings around the subject. You may find that it actually you who needs to talk about it. Process your own feelings so that you don't confuse your expectation of the way you think your father should feel with what you are experiencing. My mother lived with my children and me for 14yrs. She died here at home 2 yrs ago. I understand what you're going through. Never east but definitely worth while.

    1. Thank you JustAskGigi, I think you are 100% right.