Chapter 3: How to talk about death
Preparing for the first conversation
We need to give them credit for what they understand and feel, particularly when they don’t use words. We need to take time to talk and explain what is going on. –Support worker
The way that you begin can set the tone for future conversations, providing a foundation of trust with the person.
In preparing, ask yourself a few questions pertaining to the person. Click the arrows to view.
Who died and what was their relationship to the person?
What do you know about the person’s “loss history” (e.g., moves; other deaths; caregiver turnover; loss of capacity due to illness, capacity, or accident)?
What does the person understand about the concept of death?
What do you know about the person’s personal, cultural, or spiritual beliefs?
Has the person expressed any signs of grief (e.g., changes in emotions or behaviours)?
In addition, you will also want to consider your own relationship with the person and your experience and comfort level in talking about death. Click the arrows to view.
Thinking about your own relationship with this person and what you know about them, which approach do you think will be best?
What is your comfort level in talking about death and dying?
In preparing yourself to begin the conversation, find out as much as you can about a person’s loss history – from them, their family members, and other caregivers. Remember that a current loss may be connected to past losses.