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Death, Dying and Quality of Life

Rebecca James Therapy Bereavement

Death and dying - those words can be jarring to read. We live in a society where the language we use to describe death is shrouded in metaphors – passed, lost or slipped away, to name a few. So why, even after a global pandemic where death and illness was in our social, political and media narrative daily and yet as a society (speaking from a Western perspective), we still struggle with these words and the concept of them.

I will not be discussing religious or spiritual opinions surrounding death but I have no doubt that religion and spirituality play huge parts in all of our views around death and dying and that writing this blog, my own views of these aspects may be of influence. I want to try to come from this purely from the view of being a Systemic Psychotherapist who specialises in bereavement. Therefore, coming from the lens of people I have had the pleasure to work alongside in their grief, their final weeks and from the ideas that they have brought into the therapeutic space.

So, as a culture, why do we use these metaphors rather than the words themselves? Are we uncomfortable with the thought of our own inevitable death? Do we live our lives intertwined with others and never consider their mortality and how that would impact us? Is this because we fear grief or our own death? What about those who seek pleasure in potentially fatal hobbies? Or the fact that any time we leave our home or get into a car or cross the road, we increase our chances of death but does that stop us from doing those things?

Every human being is different – some of us will let fear drive us to make all our decisions, some will know fear is there and to take the risk anyway. There are many aspects that may influence this spectrum – age, privilege, money, life experience, (dis)ability and many others.

Perhaps it comes down to quality of life versus safety and the reality of where we are now after over a decade of austerity, is that many people are not feeling safe. We are in a cost-of-living crisis where food, utilities, fuel and goods have all substantially risen in price meaning more people than ever are struggling to make ends meet. Our quality of life is suffering and this inevitably will wreak havoc on the population’s mental and physical health. Health being a direct link to life and death. Are we afraid of death more so than ever because less people are truly living?

Life and death are intertwined. We see that each year in nature and our seasons, life and death are cyclical. Are we any different as humans? Could the meaning of life be that it stops? And if we really delved deep within us and considered our own mortality and quality of life, in this very moment, what would come up? As a society, are we really living a good quality of life or are we just getting by? How would you like your life to be? If you could find that answer, perhaps that would mean that, when the time comes, you would have a good-enough death?

Then we enter the territory of grief, the people we leave behind and the people that die before us who we grieve for. To read more about this, go read my next blog.


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