Monday, July 13, 2009

Late night conversations

Last night I was talking with my husband out on the patio and I made a comment to him about how strange it is that the general public in the US has little idea about how people die. The comment confused him, so I clarified:

We understand that certain things kill us, car accidents, overdoses, COPD, cancer, etc, and we even understand what happens to the body over time with diseases, but when someone actually gets ready to die (and I realize that this doesn’t apply in accident/sudden deaths, which are such a small portion of the deaths each year) people don’t know what goes on. I suppose it is because deaths don’t occur at home here in America, but are more likely to happen at a nursing home or hospital, so we as the general public aren’t a part of the deaths.

I remember hearing a coworker talking to a family over the phone about a relative of theirs that was dying, they were getting prices and making sure they knew what was going to happen with the funeral home when the death occurred, and my coworker asked the person on the phone if the imminent person was still eating. I don’t know what the person said, but the coworker went on to explain that first they would quit eating, and then they wouldn’t drink anymore, after which the death would happen in a short time (like a day or two), and the person on the phone was shocked. They had no idea that those two things happen, and also no clue that once a person stops taking in liquids that there was really nothing left to do but wait. At first I was shocked that the hospice people hadn’t gone over the details of the impending death with the family, but realized that maybe they had (and really, now that I look back, they most likely had, considering it’s what they do), and that the person calling the funeral home might not be the person hospice talked to. But the longer I think about it (and this happened about 5 years ago) the more shocked I become that people just don’t know what happens when someone is dying. I mean, it happens to everyone, and we have no clue. It’s not even like we can use the I’ve-never-experienced-a-death-before excuse, because we only think we’ve never experienced a death before (if we think that at all) since we are all so “protected” from death by others around us (usually parents). Now, I know it sounds like I’m ranting, and really, I am, but its frustrating sometimes, feeling like this thing, one of the few things that we all go through, is so little understood, when really it could be one of the few things that we all understand about one another. And then maybe experiencing the death of someone close wouldn’t seem so lonely.


David C. Garcia said...

That was very insightful.

I've wondered the same thing before--not because I am insightful but because I am fascinated with stuff like that.

I've always found it weird that the dying person has the ability to "control" their death. Like hold out for a bit longer or just let go. It's very strange.

I wonder if people in general don't think about death as a process because their mind puts up barriers. Like, is it a type of survival mechanism?

Doll Face said...

I wondered that too, about it being some sort of mental survival mechanism, but I just don't think that is the case. We are so different here in the US about death. Even a lot different than countries that we seem to have a lot in common with, like Western European ones. In mortuary school we took classes in thanatology, the study of grief. Actually we had more grief classes than anything else, which at the time seemed strange, and one of the things we learned was that the US has extensive grief-related problems, and they think it is because we don't deal with the dead properly.

Ivan Toblog said...

There are rants and then there are good rants. This is a good one.

BTW - the last line of your comment at TCG says everything that needs to be said. Sorry when used properly is one of the more powerful words in the English language.

thecheckoutgirl said...

Ivan is right, and I came here just to thank you for the very caring way that you expressed your sympathy.

I am really glad we met. <3

Doll Face said...

TCG- Thanks, I'm glad we met too