More talking. Less suffering. More living alive with intention and joy. Helena Dolny imagines a world in which people engage in death-in-life conversations as part of everyday living. She believes we’d live better and suffer less if we were to talk about dying more readily. Archbishop Desmond Tutu told her:‘This taboo about not talking about dying…needs to be challenged.’ Helena interviewed family and friends as well as people across continents in diverse professions including the funeral business, palliative care, spiritual leaders and financial advisers. The outcome: 57 stories on nine themes that will stop you in your tracks and make you think about how you choose to live and how you’d prefer to die. Helena Dolny writes in a guest blog post about why she chose to write her book Before Forever After.
I wrote Before Forever After because I want to contribute to more happiness and less suffering in the world. Talking about death as part of daily living can make such a difference. I’d lived closely with death for many years, firstly as a member of South Africa’s liberation struggle (colleagues killed or maimed by bombs, my husband on the apartheid government hit-list). And then a series of natural deaths: my husband died of multiple myeloma, a best friend died of breast cancer, another friend died from a post-op embolism, for another, the triple bypass was unsuccessful.
I discovered three things. Firstly, I lived very much in the moment. I could not take the future for granted. This was a real gift in terms of the personal decisions it prompted. Secondly, I discovered I sat well with dying people and this lead me to do my hospice training. Thirdly, I observed that my family and friends were reluctant to talk about dying. This meant that the suffering we experienced as part of loss was made even worse because of the conversations that hadn’t happened.
In 2009 my 29-year-old daughter, faced with an unexpected bereavement, asked for a book to read. I wanted to offer her something that looked at life as well as death. My work as an executive and life coach includes how we choose to live our lives, our relationships, as well as what matters to us in terms of dying and rituals and sharing learning about bereavement.
I started writing autobiographically in a newspaper column, Let’s talk about Dying. People started sharing their stories with me. As a result, I wrote the book Before Forever After, which has 57 stories spanning nine themes. People tell me that the book is unique in terms of its breadth and that it is ultimately thought-provoking, joyous and life-enhancing.
For more information on Before Ever After, visit Helena Dolny’s website.