How to Talk About Death?
As with all our articles on death, we don’t write about it to frighten anyone, but to get them talking about it openly. Just about every person we’ve talked to (and every article we’ve read about) features seniors and their families putting off senior living because they have a fear of death. That’s healthy, but if it’s a fear, then you should absolutely talk about – not talking about it, is NOT healthy.
Peter Pan is Dead
Peter Pan was written by J.M. Barrie who based the character off of his older brother who died in an ice-skating accident. That’s why he never grows old, he exists in one age in his family’s memory. This fact makes Neverland more representative than literal. Peter Pan was created to guide our youth to their final destination (or some kind of afterlife).
Notice though that Peter Pan (the novel) was adopted by Disney and it has become a celebrated part of our culture. Like many Disney stories (based on the Grimm fairy tales – which are aptly “grim”), they took something dark and adapted it to be uplifting. Can’t we do the same with our elders? Adapt something dark and make it uplifting. Admittedly, some of our elders are not going to be very open to the idea of Peter Pan. They may consider it childish, but there’s a viable alternative in a later Disney release.
Dustin Hoffman plays an aged and weathered Captain Hook and he’s looking for Peter Pan – in fact, he coaxes Pan – to guide him to the afterlife. Hook is representative of our elders, so fittingly the two stories complement each other. Peter Pan in our youth and Hook for our elder years.
These are not childish ideas, they’re providing historically dark concepts and an almost universal fear, but in a new light. It’s not easy to have the conversation about death, but putting the topic off is like procrastinating a report – the due date doesn’t change.
This is part of the reason why senior living communities are so healthy for our elders. It’s not just that there are staff on-hand to help with their daily life and it’s not just that there are nurses on-call 24/7, it’s that it gets seniors together among their peers so that they can converse and discuss topics like death.
Life, in many ways, functions like a book. It can be hard to start, but once we’re engaged we don’t even notice the time flying by until we’re at the end and there are only a few pages left. When you’re a senior, you may not know how many pages or chapters are left, but that’s all the more reason to stop procrastinating and start doing.
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