Talking About Death

by Michelle Balisi, MS, AMFT

In my short time on this earth, I’ve experienced many losses and grieved the deaths of many loved ones. The first funeral I attended was when I was four years old. The number of deaths in my family significantly increased as I grew up, and now as an adult, I find that the losses only become more painful.  In my family, death is seen a natural part of life.  When it comes to discussing one’s fate, the topic of death is spoken of nonchalantly.  However, when death is directly related to a close family member, the tone of conversation changes. It is as if the topic is no longer welcome. Do you have similar experiences within your household, family unit, or community?

When our loved one was placed on hospice, the topic of placement was a difficult one to discuss or even consider.  Looking back, I realize this was in direct conjunction to the finite amount of time he had left with us.  No one wanted to talk about the obvious; his time with us was ending. The discomfort, pain, and truth of reality were too much to bear.  Never mind the thought of discussing death openly with the dying patient. We couldn’t even talk about his fate amongst ourselves.  I wondered, “What is the fear behind openly discussing the reality of death? Do we fear that bringing the obvious to light will speed up the process?”  This is probably a question many of us don’t think about.

As a grief counselor, I find importance in connecting with my experiences of loss to help me explore what the emotions tell me.  Amongst sadness, I’ve battled anger, frustration, and even hope.  What do your emotions tell you in the midst of grieving? What do they want you to know?  I invite you to honor your emotions and explore them deeper, in hopes of giving you a greater sense of compassion for yourself and others when faced with loss.

Michelle Balisi, MS, AMFT, is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist with The Elizabeth Hospice. Michelle approaches the therapeutic journey from an empathetic and collaborative perspective through conversations that embrace curiosity and exploration. She enjoys working alongside clients to help them discover unrecognized and hidden possibilities within themselves.