Chaplain says talking about death helps preparation, grieving

10 photos
Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Susan Roberts spends a good amount of time around people in their last days of life.

As a chaplain at the University of Utah Hospital, she spends her days comforting the sick and helping people who are facing death to find peace - mostly talking about the patients and their lives.

"We do life reviews," Roberts said. " ‘Let's talk about your life. What are the memories you are taking with you. What have been the life lessons? What are the legacies you are going to leave?' "

She find that these discussions help people accept their death, but that those who accept it the most readily are those who have given thought and made plans surrounding the event. She believes that the best way to prepare for death is to talk about it.

"I think we need to just start talking about it, it's a reality," Roberts said. "We need to be much more embracing that this is a fact of our life. We come into this world and we will leave this world and yes, we have a notion we are going to live into our 80 or 90s and we are going to have this long healthy life, and the hope is that we do, and the unfortunate reality is often times we don't."

Helpful links:

Roberts finds that a person who is dying often accepts their death long before their families do - something she feels could be made easier.

"It is one of the most sacred times of your life and we need to embrace it more and talk about it more," Roberts said. "Just as much as we are making plans for babies coming to this world, why don't we make plans for people to leave the world?"

Her understanding of death, she feels, comes from her own near-death experience. As a child, she went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. The experience, she says, helps her comfort people who fear death.

"There is a saying in our church: ‘The peace that passes all understanding and there are no human words to describe it.' There are not human words (for my experience) and I think that influences my interactions with people dying," Robert said. "…I just want to share with them, ‘but wait til you get there. Wait til it happens. It's so peaceful.' "

I think we need to just start talking about it, it's a reality. We need to be much more embracing that this is a fact of our life.

–- Susan Roberts

Another person familiar with death is Kurt Soffe. You could say that he grew up around death. He was raised in the family's funeral home until he was 10 years old, an experience he calls a privilege.

"I watched my father and my grandfather help families -- first of all be invited into a very private space, a very personal space that not many, even some family members have been invited to," Soffe, director of Jenkins - Soffe Funeral Homes said. "To help them through a transition and through a loss of life, and I watched them do this and they became such powerful men in my eyes that I wanted to do what they were doing in helping families."

Soffe now runs his family's funeral chapels and cremation center, an opportunity that affords him the chance to hear many people's stories, inside and outside of his work.

"You know the first thing when I tell them I am a funeral director, there is an awkward pause and that awkward pause usually leads to a funeral story by the person who asked me the question. Everyone has a funeral story."

Like Chaplain Roberts, Soffe finds that it is easier for people to accept death, if they have a plan. He says that we are a "death denial society" and that our resistance of death makes us ill-planned for it.

"We have institutionalized death here," Soffe said. "Death usually occurs in homes outside of this country. It doesn't occur in hospitals."


Related stories

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Bruce Lindsay


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast