My mother was a wise woman and a wonderful teacher. While we shared a lifetime of learning, it was not until her death that I realized she forgot one important lesson: She never told me how to live without her.
I’m not alone. Even though the death of a parent is the natural order of things, everyone I know has struggled with the death of a parent. Whether the relationship is good or bad, we never seem to be ready to lose them, no matter their age or ours.
It was the death of my dearest friend that spurred me to begin thinking of my own death. At the cemetery following my friend’s funeral my daughters asked, “Is this the cemetery where you would like to be buried?” As my husband and I had not had this discussion, it was a good place to start. We chose to respond to our daughters by asking them what they wanted. “Will you visit a grave site?” we asked, and “Do you want us buried in a place where you can come and grieve?”
In the following weeks, I began to explore funeral and burial options and ask myself the hard questions. For instance: What kind of life do I want my children to have when I am no longer with them? I knew that I do not want my children to feel as lost as I did when my own mother died.
And so, my family began a series of discussions on a topic that one daughter calls, “The sad stuff.” Whatever it might be called, I am undeterred. There are decisions to be made on cremation services, niches versus cemetery plots, and the merits of a variety of burial/funeral fees. Our talks gravitate towards my wishes should my spouse survive me to thoughts and feelings about a range of topics. I want my daughters to understand and embrace that life should be lived without regret. And to accept that the world will continue and so will they, even when I am no longer by their side.
There never is a good time to talk about death and yet I have seen the chaotic aftermath when the topic is avoided and feelings are left unsaid. I have chosen a different route for my family. My children now know how I feel and they will not be left with a burden of decisions to ponder when I am gone. It’s also freed up my mind to better embrace and enjoy the rest of my life.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store