Suggestings on facing death: Psychologist Tarnya Davis offers advice.It’s the one thing we all have in common at some time in the future; yet as Woody Allen says, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. Some think that talking about death is morose, but perhaps we should think about it more. Perhaps we could even consider living as if death sits on our shoulder.
Inevitably the day will come when we will have one year left to live. Only 365 days to go. We may know, with the wisdom of medical averages, but it’s more than likely that the countdown starts without us knowing. Maybe it’s already started?
If you knew you had so little time, would you want to keep living the way that you are or would you do things differently?
Matthew O’Reilly is a US paramedic who found himself by sides of people facing their imminent death. He said early in his career, when they would ask if they were going to die, he would avoid telling them, but realised he was robbing them of the truth. Once he was brave enough to tell them, there was an unexpected calm. He also noticed a theme in their talks with him.
1. They had a need for forgiveness for the things in their life they regretted
2. They wished to be remembered
3. They hoped their life had some meaning
It is so easy to get caught up in the process of life that we stop thinking about what kind of life we want and time slips away. It is this opportunity, to live with meaning and according to their values that some people diagnosed with a terminal illness are sometimes able to see as a precious opportunity.
It’s not that we should necessarily hurry up and travel the world, write a book or become famous, although those things might be important.
But we might want to think about whether we want to keep being angry at friend who hurt us those hours, days or years ago.
We might want to stop wasting time on someone who hurts us again.
We might want to lighten up and make a conscious effort to notice how amazing the world is, rather than spending our time focused on what’s not working.
As Buddhist Pema Chodron says, “If death is inevitable and the time of death is uncertain, what’s the most important thing?”
Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists.