The Star Malaysia - Star2

Talking about death


ALTHOUGH everyone dies, hardly anyone likes to address death, much less their own approachin­g funeral. But it can be very liberating, experts say.

Death is largely a taboo topic in many countries, Germany among them, notes Barbara Till, a funeral director based in Berlin.

While openness about it has grown somewhat in recent years, she says, it remains fraught.

“Some people don’t want to talk about it,” agrees Stefanie Schardien, a Lutheran pastor in Bavaria. There are various reasons for this, she says, one of which is the irrational fear that talking about it will hasten its arrival.

Some people do deal with it, however, and write down their wishes regarding their funeral, and whether they want to be buried or cremated.

This relieves their bereaved surviving relatives of the burden and added stress of having to make these decisions themselves.

It’s still not normal practice to talk casually with friends about one’s own demise, irrespecti­ve of age, says Anne Kriesel, who operates an online platform called Bohana, which gives informatio­n and tips on bereavemen­t, options for final dispositio­n of the corpse, and how to make provision for death.

Till organises provision “parties” at which people can talk about death with family members and/or friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

She stands by to offer expert advice. The topics are varied, ranging from burial options to which legal authorisat­ions are wise.

“The real dramas occur mainly when nothing has been sorted out and pre-arranged,” says Till. For example, when a member of an unmarried couple dies and the parents of the deceased, who perhaps haven’t had a close relationsh­ip with their child for years, are suddenly responsibl­e for making funeral decisions.

Most people make no preparatio­ns for their death at all, remarks Kriesel. So when their time comes, she says, their loved ones end up sitting beside a funeral director not even knowing whether their dearly departed wanted to be buried or cremated.

It’s therefore a good idea to leave written instructio­ns on your funeral wishes.

Kriesel recommends keeping an “emergency” binder with the most important documents, for instance your will, a custody directive if applicable, appointmen­t of a health care representa­tive in case you’re unable to make such decisions for yourself, an advance health care directive, a funeral plan and a bank mandate, along with various copies.

Everything doesn’t have to be perfectly planned, and no one should feel obligated to plan ahead, reassures Schardien: “You can have a beautiful and dignified burial even if nothing was prepared in advance.”

But addressing your inevitable death before it comes knocking – on this all three women agree – enriches your life, “because,” as Till says, “you enjoy it differentl­y when you realise how precious it is.”

 ??  ?? Writing down your wishes regarding funeral arrangemen­ts can relieve bereaved relatives of some stress — Unsplash
Writing down your wishes regarding funeral arrangemen­ts can relieve bereaved relatives of some stress — Unsplash

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