Is this a deplorable idea to teach the process of dying to kids? Maybe not. Many years ago the National Education Association sought to make sexual education a necessary part of a national education curriculum. Over time information about birth control, safe sex and other elements of the sexual experience has helped kids reduce unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Being informed offers each of us a choice to control our life in a healthy way. It gives us back our power of choice through knowledge, understanding and awareness.
So, what about teaching death education in schools? Would that make a difference in the lives of our children and in our own life? Forty five years ago Elizabeth Kubler-Ross rocked the world with her pioneer work on a person’s five grief reactions prior to death. The result of Kubler-Ross’ dedicated work helped open and birth the Hospice movement as a place of caring for the dying.
I imagine if we each had a preparatory class that guided us to our choices on how to approach our own death it would make a huge difference in how we would experience the end of our life. A training to understand death physically, emotionally and spiritually would release the burden of the fear of death that we all carry unconsciously. To live without this fear would be a gift to ourselves. This would give us peace and a new sense of vitality in living our life now.
Jessica Nutik Zitter, M.D., a critical care and palliative doctor, recently taught about death awareness to a ninth grade class. She was delighted in the response. The students were open to exploring their own approach to death. No student fainted or ran out of class but rather they were totally engaged. Dr. Zitter believes people need conversations about death and asserts from her experience that most people want to die at home instead of in the intensive care unit –ICU of a hospital where for the most part instead of having a peaceful dying process they are hooked up to a machine to prolong their life. Her book, Extreme Measures, demonstrates what needs to be done in the medical community at end of life choices and decisions.
My soon to be published book in September, Embracing the End of Life: A journey into Dying and Awakening takes the death conversation further into learning how to shift our fear of death into becoming free of fear about dying now before we die. As a guidebook, Embracing the End of Life allows the reader to formulate how to express to our love ones our end of life wishes. Death “education” can remove the deep fear we face in this society.