“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
— Albus Dumbledore, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)
Whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs may be, few of us talk much about death and dying. According to a 2014 study by the Institute of Medicine, less than 30 percent of Americans had discussed end-of-life care, though 90 percent believed it was important. Life is made up of mile-marker conversations like talking about the “birds and the bees” with young people, being told you’re not being offered the job, or having to break up with your first boyfriend, few cause as much anxiety as discussing our own thoughts, feeling and fears about the end of life.
“We know from pages of research and the advice of countless experts that talking about death and dying is an important part of life and living,” says Traci Marciniak, president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation. “We shy away from the topic, yet talking about death can bring us so much closer to those we love.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Solvay Hospice House, which the Miller-Dwan Foundation built with the help of generous community donors. In honor of this milestone and to help initiate discussion of an important topic, the foundation is hosting one of the world’s foremost experts on healing and loss, David Kessler, for a free community event April 20 at 6 p.m. at Northland Country Club in Duluth, MN.
Kessler is the author of five bestselling books, including the newly released “You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After Breakup, Divorce or Death” with Louise Hay. He co-authored two bestsellers with the legendary Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: “On Grief and Grieving” and “Life Lessons.” His first book, “The Needs of the Dying,” a No. 1 best-selling hospice book, received praise from Mother Teresa.
In this book, Kessler explains why it’s difficult for us to talk with those who are dying about end-of-life issues.
“You never know what someone needs when going into a conversation. The person you are talking to may not know either, for dying is always a new experience. The emotions of the person who is dying may change from day to day or moment to moment.
“It’s alright to talk about dying if the person is receptive. Each situation has to be gauged individually. Not talking about death won’t make it go away, but talking about it can bring life back into your relationship. Talking about death is like stepping into uncharted territory. It can be liberating and cathartic.
“There are no rules, except to play it by ear and listen to what the dying have to say.”
Kessler’s experience with thousands of people on the edge of life and death has taught him the secrets to living a happy and fulfilled life. His services have been used by Elizabeth Taylor, Carrie Fisher, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Marianne Williamson when their loved ones faced life-challenging illnesses. He has also worked with late actors Anthony Perkins and Michael Landon and has been featured on CNN, NBC, Fox, PBS, and Dr. Oz Kessler is a contributing writer for Oprah.com, Dr. Oz’s Sharecare.com, Anderson Cooper 360 and The Huffington Post.