Wednesday, January 27, 2016

David Kuhl Reflection | Talking to a Dying Parent

"[C]onnecting deeply with loved ones, particularly children, is one of the most important things to people at this stage of life. "It's the responsibility of the parent to make sure their child is heard and seen when they are young," Kuhl says. "And as parents grow old, they want to be heard and seen. People would say to me after we'd spend time together, 'I only wish I had told this story to my children, because they don't really know me and I don't know them. And I'd like to hear their stories, too.'"

Even children who spend a lot of time with dying parents often find it difficult to talk to them on an other than "mundane, day- to-day basis," says Kuhl. And terminal illness can exacerbate this because parents and children often try to hide the truth about the illness from each other, further hampering the possibility of an honest discussion. "We start taking care of each other through a conspiracy of silence," Kuhl says, "and that doesn't serve us well."

If it feels awkward to start a conversation, he says to begin by admitting that. "Say 'Mom (or Dad), I really want to know you better and I'm not even sure how to begin,'" Kuhl says. Then start at the beginning, talking about her early childhood and working through her life and up to broader questions such as: "What's been most meaningful in your life? What's been most challenging? What are you sorry about? What was the funniest stuff? When did you have the most fun in your life?""

David Kuhl Reflection | Talking to a Dying Parent:

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