Why is there a taboo on talking about death and dying?

  • Talking Points

Why is there a taboo on talking about death and dying?

Today

When Covid hit in early 2020 one of the authors of our book approached a TV production company with a suggestion for a programme on ‘Talking about Dying’, the response was

“People do not want to think about dying at the present time”.

At the same time another author asked their local church leadership if we could circulate to church members information about what people could helpfully put in place before they died: make a Will, prepare a ‘power of attorney’, and any instructions they might have about how they would want to be cared for if too ill in body or mind to convey their own decisions.

Surprisingly, the local church leadership also responded that talking about dying was too distressing; even though hundreds were dying from COVID each week in the UK.

Yesterday

I recently preached in one of our local churches which has over the main arch the remains of a medieval wall painting showing in the centre Christ as Judge. The unavoidable divide between ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ after death was portrayed to the right and left. On his right-hand side were shown those enjoying the resurrection life in God’s new heaven on earth. On his left, those who were in perpetual torment.

Why this taboo?

Since 1920 the average life expectancy has doubled world-wide as science and medicine have advanced. Death is no longer all around us. For many (but not all) it has been pushed far into the future with plenty of time to make important decisions. We have no need of God but live in an increasingly individualistic society where what matters are our own personal ideas, desires and values which we want to enjoy for as long as possible. To suggest that this life will end one day throws a shadow over what we are enjoying now and would like to go on forever.

“Don’t speak about dying”

It is not ‘polite’ to talk about death, and talking about it, some think, might just make it happen. So from sex being the great taboo in society fifty years ago, the great taboo now is talking about death and dying.

Unless

Unless those who produced the medieval wall painting were not as ‘backward’ as people nowadays like to think. Unless the Bible is correct that our life is lived in the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our Creator, our Judge and our Saviour, who says: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Revelation Chapter 1 verses 17-18.