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Do you think the elderly want to talk about their death?

(13 Posts)
chocolatequeen Fri 25-Apr-08 18:58:19

My grandmother is nearing 90, and although in relatively good health, she is starting to falter and feel perhaps that there is not really much left for her. Sometimes she will tell us about what she has left us in her will in a jokey way, but I wonder if she would like to talk to us about how she feels about her life, her regrets and how she is feeling about her own death but is not comfortable broaching it, as a taboo subject.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Nagapie Fri 25-Apr-08 19:12:13

My folks are nowhere near the age of your gran, but they have made their intentions and wishes well known to my brother and me.

It isn't the easiest topic to talk about or the most light hearted one, but so necessary....

chocolatequeen Fri 25-Apr-08 19:26:17

Not just from a will point of view, but more in a human way. are they afraid? Are they regretful of things? are there things that they still want to do, that they would need help to do? There was an interview with a terminally ill man, who said something along the lines of being afraid, really afraid of dying, and spending every waking moment thinking about it, and not really feeling able to talk about his fears with people because they would rather be jolly and positive in the face of certain death. I would hate her to feel like that, it bothers me to think that she might, but can´t talk about it.

kneedeepinthedirtylaundry Fri 25-Apr-08 19:38:19

chocolatequeen, what does your instict say would happen if you just ask her straight out if she's scared of death?

Or perhaps you should just start her off on an early memory (perhaps ask what is her earliest memory), and work through her life, asking her what, from her perspective at the age of 90, she feels have been her finest moments, not so fine, happiest, and work slowly towards death. You'll get an idea of how much she enjoys this kind of conversation quite quickly, and which areas she dwells on, which she skips past.

I think it's a great thing to do, and think if I was 90 and my grandchild wanted to talk to me about this, I would be grateful.

Good luck.

Elasticwoman Fri 25-Apr-08 19:39:45

Don't know about Death as a topic, but certainly Death Duties pre-occupy both my mum and my in-laws.

chocolatequeen Tue 29-Apr-08 09:20:47

Good idea kneedeep - thank you. I have this dear wish to take her back to the area of London where she was born and bred, although it is now a couple of hours from where she lives. I think it would be nice for her, she seems enthusiastic apart from the travelling. Like you say, it is trying to imagine being 90 and what you would want as well.

castille Tue 29-Apr-08 09:28:41

Depends a lot on the person

My grandfather never mentioned the idea of his own death even in his nineties. He hated losing physical strength and was not ready to go, so it was never discussed. He had made a will though. He died very suddenly at 94.

I wish we had talked more about his life. I found out all sorts of fascinating things about him at his funeralsad

So in your position I'd def start by asking her about her life, she'll probably be thrilled that you're interested.

What a nice granddaughter you are

marina Tue 29-Apr-08 09:29:24

I think taking her back to her childhood haunts is a nice idea chocolatequeen.
Do you have family photos that could act as a starting point for discussion and reminiscence, maybe?
My dad is 83 and has a long, largely happy and eventful life to look back on. My mother's early life was desperately unhappy and traumatic and she hates to discuss anything much to do with family until she met dad (in her 30s).
Sometimes they refer briefly to what will happen when one of them goes, but I think maybe because they are my parents (rather than a loved grandparent), I find the subject too raw to broach.
We recently lost dad's last surviving brother, also after a very long and happy life, and it was a shock to us and our cousins that the "long and happy life" bit was absolutely no consolation at all. We all miss him desperately and dad is in consequence copping some rather maudlin attention, which is disconcerting him slightly.
Another thing you could do for your grandmother is buy her one of those "My Family" books, which provide her with a framework and prompts for writing down her family history.
This wonderful organisation, based in SE London, might also give you some ideas.
Are your parents still alive? How do they feel about your grandmother's faltering health

GrapefruitMoon Tue 29-Apr-08 09:32:15

castille, I used to try to talk to my grandmother about the "olden days" before she died but she was always very reluctant.... I think she found it too painful as it brought back memories of all the people she knew who had died or people who had emigrated and she's lost touch with...

Tommy Tue 29-Apr-08 09:33:52

My grandmother never talked about death as she was scared of it. One day (a few months before she died) I was with her and Ian Dury was on the radio and the interviewer said to him "Do you think about death?" Grandma picked up on it and I used that as a "way in" and said "Do you think about it?". She said "Well, I suppose we all have to go sometimes don't we". That was the first time she'd ever mentioned it in anything like a way that suggested she was a bit more comfortable about it.

brimfull Tue 29-Apr-08 09:36:40

my mum is alwasy harping on about "when I'm gone...bla bla"
she's only 73 fgs and very healthy

she has funeral paid for and plot picked out

I think some old folk like people to be open and honest about it.

If I were you I would ask lots of open ended questions.

How do you feel about dying?

What are the highs and lows of your life?

You'll soon find out how much she wants to talk.

chocolatequeen Tue 29-Apr-08 10:04:01

Thanks all. I think I would struggle to ask outright how she feels about dying - it is quite a raw question, and I think it could be a shocking thing to do. I would like the idea of a conversation starting on another note, and then covering how she feels about death. After all, if she is afraid then I don´t want to make her talk about something she doesn´t want to. If she is afraid of death at 90, there is not much to be done to change that - she has had a lifetime to find some sort of peace with it, and if it is not there now, it probably never will be. I just want to know as much about her as she wants to tell me - once she is gone, all of that will be gone too and I want her to stay a real person IYKWIM.

Thanks for the link marina - what a beautiful thing.

semi Wed 10-Jun-09 22:48:46

why don't you simply ask if she wants to talk? about anything? ie let her direct the conversation rather than assume...if her sentiment is to talk about it jokingly - responding in the same way may diffuse the situation...but perhaps you should slip in how you feel about her being alive - what an impact she has made on you etc...as on the facts, it sounds like you're the 'concerned party' and that it's you that needs to communicate around the topic - not her...just some thoughts of an independent...

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