Break the Silence! Start the Conversation.

Break the Silence! Start the Conversation.

Hushed conversations.

If you’re like me and of a certain age, you might remember when the word sex was whispered, or spelled s – e – x in polite conversation. In our family, we never uttered the nouns that described the private parts of the body. Certain things were deemed unmentionable. Mom said it was uncivilized.

Has death been a taboo topic in your family?

In our home, talking about death and dying wasn’t on the approved topics list either. I remember when I once asked my mom a question about a loved one’s passing, she quickly responded, “We don’t talk about that.” Another time, she answered, “That’s morbid.”

break the silence, start the conversation

Talking about end-of-life decisions might just be the final frontier. Over the past two decades, our culture first grudgingly tolerated, then slowly accepted, and now openly celebrates conversations that were once uttered in hushed tones. Formerly taboo topics are no longer deemed socially unacceptable.

The conspiracy of silence.

Yet, talking about death and dying remains veiled in the shadows. Families often unwittingly enter into a conspiracy of silence. An aging or afflicted loved one may be reluctant to foster conversations about end-of-life healthcare preferences for fear of upsetting family members. At the same time, family members can be unwilling to give voice to questions and concerns about end-of-life choices because it might be perceived as an eagerness for a loved one’s passing.

Remember when families used to care for dying loved ones at home?

A century ago, family would care for a dying relative at home. Grandpa would be surrounded by loved ones and comforted by the familiarity of his own bed. We accepted death as part of life.

In fact, research shows that 70% of adults want to die at home with a peaceful passing, and yet, roughly 70% of adults die in some type of treatment facility.

In the past few decades, we’ve largely outsourced the care of the dying to institutions. We’ve compartmentalized death by removing it from the daily, ordinary rhythm of life in the home. We’re removed death from our conversations as well.

Start the conversation during the holidays.

When your family is gathered together during the holiday season, you can break the silence. Start the conversation this year during Thanksgiving or at Christmas time.


Break the silence. Ask your loved ones,

“What’s most important to you in your final days of life?”

Then, listen carefully.


Be brave. Share your wishes for future care.

Break open the discussion by talking about the types of medical care you do—and do not—want to receive if you are unable to speak for yourself. Be sure to talk about your needs for emotional and spiritual care. And explain who the decision-maker(s) should be, and why they were chosen.

Make it your job to initiate the conversation.

In his acclaimed book Dying Well, Dr. Ira Byock reminds us, “It’s never too soon until it is too late.” Now is the time to talk with your family about your preference of end-of-life care.

It’s time for these important family discussions. No whispering. No spelling out words. Just honest heart-to-heart conversations about loving and caring for one another through the end-of-life journey.

You can be the catalyst for a profound and unexpected family blessing this holiday season. By sharing one another’s wishes, you will be able to honor your loved one’s care preferences whenever and for whomever the end-of-life journey comes.

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