Often when I speak to medical professionals about my views on death they are very surprised and exclaim ‘you are very black and white about that.’ I realise my views on the subject differ to that of many other people, and they have done since I was a young child. I don’t know if this is partly due to my autism, or just my own weird take on things, so I thought I’d ask on here what other people’s views on death/dying are. To give you a flavour of my views, here are some of my comments on the matter:
I think that we all die so we should get used to the idea sooner rather than later and that’s it’s not worth worrying about as it is inevitable. I wouldn’t care if I died tomorrow. Further, if I was to fall terminally ill I would refuse treatment as I believe in letting nature take it’s course - after all, natural selection has worked well for thousands of years, so why mess with it? If I died prematurely due to illness I would just see it that this was meant to be. This is why, despite being in my early 20s, I have already requested a do not resuscitate to be in place (also, I kind of view CPR as a form of physical assault - having seen it done to others, I certainly wouldn’t want it done to me!) and I said I wouldn’t want a blood transfusion when I had surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to refuse all medical input and I am very thankful for some of it, but I do draw a distinct line between what I consider acceptable and not.
My grandma is currently in a nursing home with dementia. She literally asked my mum and me to smother her, and she just wants to die because she is no longer able to live at home and do what she enjoyed. The home said she was depressed and tried to medicate her for it. They gave her a medication they new would increase her appetite as she was refusing food. I ended up arguing with them over it, explaining that my grandma wasn’t mentally ill - her thinking was perfectly logical and if I was in her position I would feel the same way. My grandma is very like me, and is very pragmatic about death also, and she hid the tablets rather than taking them, so that demonstrates what she thought about it! Maybe I was wrong to argue with the home, but I honestly couldn’t understand why they were trying to get her to feel different and eat more, as this would only prolong her suffering (aka life) and she just wanted to die! I think that keeping people alive at all cost is truly immoral and if they didn’t ask for it personally, it is selfish of those who did.
Disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend anyone with my views, and I certainly don’t expect others to comply with them. I respect everyone’s views and I know this is a difficult subject for some. I’m just wondering if anyone else thinks like me about death, or if I’m being obscure on my own here! Some may put it down to my current depression, but as mentioned I’ve thought like this from a very young age, so it appears intrinsic (maybe inherited from my grandma!).
For a starting point, I think we all need to talk about death more.
For me, talking about death comes in two parts.
Part 1: I am terrified of death. Why? Eternal nothingness. No consciousness. No senses. No thoughts. Nothing. For eternity. For me, to have consciousness and senses is priceless, which is why I know I am privileged to be alive.
Part 2: We are not meant to live forever, so I accept death as the natural process of life. I will not live forever. I accept that I could die at any moment and if it's to happen then it will happen.
My beliefs are based on the idea that eternal life is based on the idea that the atoms, which make up our body, will continue to be part of the world and the universe, the energy within our bodies will simply be transferred from one state to another because energy is neither created nor destroyed but simply transferred from one state to another. However, our brains and the biochemical reactions within our bodies cease to function so we lose our consciousness while what has made us is simply returned to the greater whole of the world and universe around us. So, in a sense, I have a spiritual belief in that we and the world and the universe are all connected.
When I was a child, my first grandfather died, and it traumatised me. I didn't understand what was going on and all I knew is that my grandfather had gone and would never be coming back because he died. I suppose I just held a strong sense of attachment to my family that what happened really had a severe impact on me as a child. Going to bed, I wondered if I would wake up again. The spectre of death, that everyone died, haunted me in a way and I accepted my own mortality, the mortality of my family and everyone around me. The people I cared about would one day die and I couldn't do anything about it. It was painful and emotionally straining as a child yet because I didn't understand and because I didn't really express emotions as a child, nobody picked up on anything. It's very painful to lose the people I care about and that's why I can also find it hard to even consider getting close to people.
Like I say though, I accept death so even as it terrifies me, I have no power or control over it so I have to live with it. I was told by a psychologist who was involved in my diagnosis that at least I have the rest of my life to prepare for it rather than waiting until the end to suddenly feel afraid. Not sure it's the greatest of comforts but I know that there's nothing wrong with being afraid. I do my best to live with it, to be thankful for being alive, and thankful for the time I can share with those that I care about even though I know I will have to lose them eventually.
So, does that mean that I believe that people should strive to stay alive at any cost? No. I accept that we are mortal entities who are born to die. We can't escape death and to pay any price for life is something I can't comprehend. My father is an example, he's already decided that he's prepared to take his own life if his quality of life falls below a certain level and I respect his decision. Life and living should be about the quality of our ability to experience it, so if people feel that their ability to experience life or that their quality of life isn't good enough to constitute living then I can accept and respect their decision. Even to me, life is not simply about being hooked up to machines to be kept alive, or to live a poor quality of life. I suppose the only differences are where I may decide to draw that line on what sort of quality of life I am prepared to live with. I haven't actually drawn a line yet, probably because it depends on the circumstances at the time, but I don't want to be forced to live simply for the sake of ticking a box to say I'm alive.
WoW, that's HUGE. I started to read your comment and was overcome with anxiety. I had to stop reading. I had to get my breath. It was like, whoa. How does anybody live with that? I can't imagine living my life thinking I could die at any minute. That's huge. Or at least it would be for me.
It's like, I can't imagine, living, and believing that. I'm so glad that I never bothered thinking about death and dying. It's just never occurred to me to think about it. And I'm realising that, for me, I was so lucky that it didn't, because if I thought I could die at any moment, I just don't know how I could live, peacefully.
I live my life, at the minute anyway, while I've been in burn out, from appointment to appointment. Honestly, I missed enough major appointments to start keeping the appointments in mind, and keep checking my phone etc to make sure I've got the right date and time and that I even know what day it is (because I forget that as well, regularly) so I suppose the first thing that came to mind when I read that, was f**k me, this is it then, I'll not only be waiting for the rest of my life, but I don't even know when it's gonna happen, but that it could be any minute.
But to be honest, I've just tried it now, to think of death and dying, and nothing really comes to mind. I guess I just don't have any thoughts on it. It's not unusual. There are billions of stuff I don't have thoughts about and the way I'm living life just now, appointment to appointment, its a good job I haven't got any thoughts about that in my head.
I couldn't stop thinking about it as a child when my grandfather died. I'm pretty sure I didn't go through any sort of grieving process at the time and, like I say, nobody knew what was going on in my head and I was unable to express myself. My mind was just focused on trying to reconcile what had happened in order to come to some sort of understanding.
At the end of the day, it's part of what has shaped me to become who I am and my views on life, the world around me and how much we should value things because it's so easy to take anything for granted.
It sounds like it was a very scary time, as well as a deeply emotional time, when your grandfather died. It sounds like he was very important to you. I never really had an experience like that as a child because I didn’t even feel connected to my own body, let alone another person’s. It would have been nice (in hindsight) to have gotten a little closer to my grandparents, although I’m convinced that one of my grandads looks out for me, from somewhere!
I agree with you about how easy it is to take things for granted. I lived most of my life that way. It wasn’t until I got into the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous that I started to learn about gratitude. Now I’m grateful for every breath I take and for all the things I don’t have. Life is so precious, I am so grateful to have one. It took me more than 50 years to realise it though.