Deathly silence: ‘How can I persuade my parents to have a practical conversation about mortality?’

When you talk about death you make it seem real, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith, so find a more gentle way to frame the conversation

My family is scattered in four countries, and all of us have different nationalities. The Covid-19 crisis has made me painfully aware of my mortality and I have told my family of any end-of-life wishes and where they can find the practical information and cash to deal with this. But it’s so, so hard to get my parents to engage in this conversation. They are in their 70s, both with underlying health issues. God forbid, if anything happened to them, we won’t be able to travel, let alone facilitate anything. My siblings and I are not concerned with inheritance at all. Just about the practicalities of paperwork etc given our complex international lives. How can I persuade them to share some practical information?Eleanor says: Part of why talking about death is so hard is that when you talk about it you make it real. When death feels real, it can be very hard to keep feeling alive. I remember walking through school the day after my first real encounter with death, feeling drained of motivation and interest, like nothing could have a point now that I knew that whatever I did, I would still end up in the ground.

Feeling like you’ve lost your future is a good way to rob yourself of any joy in the present. This is why depression can feel like a kind of internal death, and it’s why facing our own death often causes depression. Both feel like they take away the future.

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