Is it proper to talk about death with those who are near?


I don’t mean to be illmannered but my folks and in-laws are both of an age where it is obvious that they are on the home stretch. Age is not the only issue there are many deteriorating health issues as well. I am very sure my folks are, as well as can be expected, ready to meet their maker. They both are devout, and experience a daily time with the lord. They are both having a hard time adjusting to their deterioration and the continuous slide toward more and more physical trouble. I am in awe of the perseverance they both display. Yet, I am sure that they can both benefit from a perspective that takes their impending deaths into account. It is not always possible to deal with their issues in the “present moment”. Quite a few of the issues really are only adequately addressed from an end of life perspective. I’ve brought this perspective into our conversations several times, but I can’t tell if they are being polite or if my point of view is helpful. I tend to think they really appreciate my concern and advice and point of view. I don’t know if I am being out of line or not.
I can’t really consult with those who have gone on before us, so what do you guys think?
With my in-laws, They know their time is near but show only the slightest concern about their impending judjement. My father-in-law flat out is not interested in speaking with a preist or minister of any kind. My mother-in-law is not in much of a state to care one way or another. They have never been very devout or really very interested about their faith. I guess this is a situation where the pattern of a lifetime have caught them both up into a place of no concern. I pray and fast for them. I do not pester any of them about death, I’m just wondering if any of you good people have some wisdom and or advice about a situation like this?


Hi “sawman”. It’s a good topic for discussion.

My dad died 21 years ago (this coming November); When he died, I was only 29. He had a long, drawn out… terminal illness… and knew he was dying.

I can remember several times… when he would say things like… “I’m dying, you know”. And the fact that I was so young and immature… I (the one who wasn’t dying) was horrified and would quickly change the subject. It has been one of my greatest regrets in life, to this day. That my dad… seemed to want to talk about his approaching death, and I wasn’t there for him. I believe he has forgiven me… because I was young and thoughtless at the time.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if a dying person wants to talk about death… by all means, DO talk about it with them. I don’t know if this is helpful to you. But… your topic, is an opportunity for me to share a painful memory, which hopefully can be helpful to others. I’d give anything now, to be able to go back in time… and talk to my dad about death.

God bless you. :slight_smile:


Dear Marie Veronica,
Thank you for your thoughts. I have not had any of my parents really want to discuss death per se. My father has concerns about his spiritual life. He and I are pretty close. We share our faith and our opinions and ideas and understanding of God are very simpatico. Same with my mom, maybe even more so. With my in-laws although we are pretty close, they have never been very near to God. They are inclined to to be very much in the “present” and rarley go anywhere near death topics. They rarely go anywhere near any topic of real importance. I am respectful of their desire to not be disturbed or distracted by something reallt important like death, but I am very woried about the condition of their souls and what preparation they’ve made for death.

T.V. the weather, and the O’s, (orioles MLB team). are the major topics of conversation with them. They both kind of look up to me as some kind of spiritual hero, I find this to be very uncomfortable for myself. I think they believe that if In am praying for them, then they must be"in like flint" with the Lord. Or something like that. I’ve brought up death preparedness with my father-in-law, but he pooh-poohs that kind of talk. My mother-in-law is partially senile and abuses her meds and rarley can have a coherent conversation anymore. Even at her best she was never very interested in anything that would inconvienence her too much. So I am not trying to sound too uncaring or judgemental, I’m just trying to give an accurate picture here.

Should just let them die in their unconcrened way? Or should I push things. They are both getting pretty frail and full of disabilities thet could bring death at any time ( like the rest of us). I don’t know and I’d like to have some more talk and Ideas about this.


Tom… it’s not surprising to me, that your folks react as they do… to the topic of death. It’s a pretty common condition, for most of us. Fear of the unknown, etc. “Death” is in uncomfortable (although important) topic for most of us.

Sounds like you might have an easier time with your own folks, though… than your in-laws. How does your wife feel about raising the subject with her parents?

You say your MIL is suffering from senility. I understand. My mother also. In fact, my mom has Alzheimer’s. At this point, she goes along pretty willingly with whatever I suggest… so it’s been rather easy for me to help her “get pointed” in the right direction. I take her to Mass several times a week, and I see to it… that she receives the Sacraments as often as possible. Any chance that you and your wife could make similar arrangements for you MIL, at least? Sounds like FIL might be a bit tougher.

In his case… I guess prayer would be the best answer. If he’s unwilling to discuss death and spiritual matters… I don’t think I’d force the issue. But you know them… and I don’t. So… my opinion isn’t worth much.

God bless. All of you are in my prayers. Your family is blessed, to have someone who cares so much about their spiritual welfare.


Dear Marie Veronica,
Thank you again for your encouragement. I did not mean to suggest that my wife is not a part of the interaction with our parents. She and I are very simpatico with our relegion. She loves my folks very much and looks up to them maybe even more than her own parents. She has always been admireing of my folk’s faith, it’s helped her a lot in her own journey.

We have both been spending more and more time with our respective parents over the last few months as the medical conditions have been taking a toll on both sets of folks. I’ve approached my father-in-law on a “man-to-man” basis about any spiritual needs he might have. My wife has been willing to take her mom to mass but the medical conditions have been not very conducive to that lately.The in-laws live just far enough away to require an overnight stay. In an emergency we could get there and back in one day, but as it is we ( my wife and I ) are spending a lot of time apart. I am not complaining, I am glad to be able to be of service to both sets of folks like this.
Anyway, the issues my folks are dealing with are not so much fear of death as exaspiration with the decline of their health and the toll it is taking on their patience and kindness and mercy toward each other. My dad is getting more and more physically dependant and more and more forgetful and way more short-tempered than he ever has been. This creates some real fights between them,which in my whole life I could count on one hand. I think they are both aware that as they approach the end,things do not in any way get easier. This is not only a hard reality, but very hard to incorporate into their spirituality. It is taking a toll on them in a lot of ways. I would love to take that burden upon myself but I cannot. It is hard to watch and I have very little to offer them for relief.

My prayers I know are heard by our Lord and He give them His help in every way He can, but they are on a course that has to be finished and nothing can take that away.

My worst fear is for my in-laws, who, like so many, seem to drown their spirits in an endless wave of T.V.,and petty distractions. I literaly seem short of breath when I consider the waste of opportunity they both are seemingly content live with. Thanks for your input though.


My father died 13 years ago from cancer. My mother raised us in the catholic church (her church), dad was presbyterian, but did not attend church regularly. I never discussed religion with him when I was growing up. When he was dying, I visited every weekend (they lived 3 hours away), and we still didn’t talk about faith. After he died, there were numerous (and still are) discussions about him, and I asked about his faith. Mom said he knew more about the bible than anyone else she knew (which means He could quote scripture–not interpret). She said she knew he turned to the bible during his life, because it would have been moved from one location to another.

I’m rambling, but yes, it’s okay to talk about death and dying, if the person who is dying wants to. It’s certainly okay for you to pray that they find solace with Jesus. My dad may not have been perfect, or even catholic, but I’m 99% sure he made it to Heaven because of his overall character.

Peace to you and yours!


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