Response to #DyingMattersAwarenessWeek and #YODO.
(Note: this is something I feel strongly about).
Being a young person, we are often stigmatised as “thinking we are immortal”. Thinking that the choices we make regarding our lifestyle in our younger years won’t affect us when we are older. I am not one of those young people, you’ll be glad to know. I believe in the saying, YODO, you only die once. As YODO has become active on social media once again, I think more young people will become aware and possibly start taking life more seriously, or at least I hope so! I haven’t given much thought about my will yet, because I don’t have children and I don’t have savings behind me. In later years it is something I will definitely consider. As for being an organ donor, I am unsure of this, call me selfish but I wouldn’t want my body parts removed, I believe in leaving the soul to rest when death overcomes a person. However, the argument comes that “You won’t need them anymore…” and “you’ll be saving a life”. This is something I agree with, I want to save a life where I can, if it means giving my body parts to someone else to save their life then so be it. I know that is contradictory but it’s a difficult situation, my morals and my beliefs are opposites here. At the moment, I think I am too young to think about death, though no one knows what is around the corner. Therefore I think young people should be encouraged to talk about death, dying and bereavement so that we know what we want when we get to that stage where we need to talk about such things. I personally don’t like to think about what I want when I’m you know…gone, it’s not really a nice thought at the end of the day. I have a lot to look forward to in my life. But I understand I need to talk about these things, if I develop dementia later on in my life or become terminally ill with cancer, the question – who will know what I want, except me?, springs to mind. No-one, no-one will know if I don’t talk about it. Even if it is a little conversation, “Oh I’d like a quiet funeral, I’d like roses for my flowers” etc. At least you are letting someone know and if the inevitable happens then that person may think back to that conversation and give you what you want. I think this campaign by Dying Matters to raise awareness of death, dying and bereavement is an excellent way to make more young people realise that yes…YOLO (you only live once) but that also YODO. You only die once. I think this short hashtag is a great way to get through to young people. Though we should always talk about death, dying and bereavement, not just for one week but everyday. That doesn’t mean to say talk about it everyday as such, but don’t keep it from conversation, just because it isn’t awareness week.
Make sure that you know what you want when you die. This resonates with me. Make a will, become an organ donor, know how you want your funeral to be. When you die have the funeral that you want, not what someone else thinks you would have wanted, don’t follow the saying “It’s what…would have wanted!”. Keep being the one that makes the choices! We need choice and dignity and respect even after we’ve passed away.
People talk about legacies. How a person wants to be remembered or what a person wants to leave behind. I hope that every young person wants to have a legacy, in fact every person. I want to be remembered for challenging stigma, for helping people and for making my family proud. I’d like to leave money for charity too. Young people need to be encouraged to think about legacies as it’s an important thing for loved ones. A way to be remembered. YOLO but YODO too! Question yourself, how do I want to be remembered?
Death may be a subject that isn’t talked about, but I think in order to get through to young people even more, it should be integrated into the school curriculum too. It’s all fine and well using YODO and raising awareness on social media sites but death, dying and bereavement should feature on the curriculum. How to make your life better is included – healthy eating, getting exercise. They all aim to raise awareness of how to live! But there isn’t anything to inform young people on death, dying or bereavement. Everyone who is born, lives and everyone dies too. So why not help people learn how to die. Learn how to prepare a will, learn about the different choices we have at the end of our lives, learn about funerals etc. We will all experience someone close to us dying, a friend, a family member, even a pet, funny it may seem. We should teach the concept of a good death, what bereavement is, how to help people who have lost a friend, relative etc and what support is out there. All of these would raise awareness of death and I think it would make social media awareness weeks around death, dying and bereavement more powerful as it would be taught to young people already. I think in the UK we are scared of death, scared to talk about it and scared to face it. It may be a generalisation but among teenagers I think it’s common. We aren’t scared to live though. Being a teenager is one of the best times of your life, yes? But when we get older our mortality hits us, we realise we are going to die and sometimes when the epiphany occurs, it’s too late. Make decisions NOW, rather than later down the line.
We need to talk about dying, death and bereavement or we will inevitably lose our choice and possibly our dignity at a time that is just as important as birth and life itself.