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Dad Talks About Death


Dad occasionally makes the comment that he is not going to be around much longer.  He is 85 years old, and he is in reasonably good health for his age.  It makes me uncomfortable when he makes such comments, and I never know how to respond.  Do you think he is trying to tell me something?  What does one say when a parent brings up the end of his or her life?



These types of comments from your father are not uncommon for someone his age. An 85-year-old male in the United States is already beyond the average life span of 76 years old, a statistic he may be aware of.  The fact that he is in good health does not mean he turns a blind eye to such information.

Let's look at context. If your father is saying such things casually in everyday conversation, it likely does not have a deeper meaning. The most probable scenario is that he is speaking factually. He may understand that an 85-year-old man is likely near the end of his life, give or take 15 years. Monitoring his usual manner of communication should give you the clues you need to judge how he is feeling.

If your father is someone who never talks about anything personal, this may be an opening for further conversation and planning.  While it may be an off-the-cuff comment, there is no harm in asking him what he thinks his life expectancy is.  I recommend circling back in private, and asking him what he meant when he made the comment. That question may open up some interesting dialogue, and at a minimum, it will show your father you are capable of having such conversations with him.  The most important gift you can give someone is often a willingness to listen.

If your father is quite outgoing, and you believe that he is just making casual conversation, it is still a good idea to circle back to the comment in private. There are times when an individual is uncomfortable telling family members, even children, of an illness. It is always possible that he is trying to figure out how to share such information. It is my guess, however, that he is contemplating his life and thinking about the time he has left, rather than signaling that he is ill.

In essence, it is quite common for a parent in their 80's to talk about the end of life.  Feel free to ask a question or two about it. Your father is likely being realistic, and in most cases, there should be no cause for alarm.