*This is a guest post by Yvonne Heath. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TalkDeath, or its employees.
Creating a culture of change where we normalize talking about, planning and preparing for grief takes many voices. It starts with you and me, taking responsibility so we can live, grieve and die well.
I became disheartened as I witnessed our society’s death-phobia, and how our reluctance to talk about, plan and prepare for grief, death and dying causes excessive suffering in life and at the end of life. As a healthcare professional I suffered too—personally and professionally—not knowing how to do it differently. So, at age 50, I took a leap of faith, left my nursing career and blazed a new trail to help create a culture of change. I interviewed people of all ages, wrote my book, Love Your Life to Death, became an Inspirational Speaker, TV and radio host and social media guru (well, I try!).
I believe that we need to open up the conversation about death and dying- whether it be us speaking to our loved ones about our end-of-life choices, or speaking with our loved ones about their choices, preferences and needs. The latter of the two situations – how to talk to a loved one about their own death- is often the reality for younger individuals (when speaking to a parent, for example), and can be the most difficult. I will begin by sharing why it is critical to start this important conversation, before giving you my thoughts on how to navigate this journey”
Why Have “The Talk” About End of Life Planning?
L Looking for opportunities before an illness or unexpected death allows you the time to make important decisions without emotions and grief getting in the way.
O Only you know your wishes about end of life and how to best be honoured. If you create this plan together, your loved ones can share what will be important to them as well.
V Verbalizing your end-of-life plan to all of those your death will impact, is critical. Write it, record it, and legalize it. Doing this will ease the burden of those you love.
E Evolving and creating a culture of openness about death and dying now, will lead to less suffering in the future.
Y You begin to self-reflect: What is important? What is my purpose? What do I need to change in my life to be fulfilled now, and at the end of it?
O Overlooked finances can be dealt with. This is a wakeup call to plan for the rest of your life and end of life. Alleviate financial burden.
U Understanding and accepting grief, death and dying, will change your life – and your death. It will help those you love to do the same.
R Regrets –If you foresee having any, you have the opportunity to take care of them now.
L Love: This is an opportunity to write or dictate letters to your loved ones, encouraging them to grieve and find joy again, should you die first. What an incredible gift.
I Imagine the peace of mind you will have, knowing that you have done your best to alleviate excessive suffering for yourself and your loved ones at the end of life.
F Family, friends, loved ones. Share your love and ask what you need from one another. Open your heart.
E Empowerment. If we plan and prepare for life and end of life, we will be empowered to live fully and die peacefully, and we can leave a legacy of love.
Easier said than done? Yes, it certainly is. Especially when you’re young and approaching people who are resistant! Here is the best advice I can give you:
Start with creating your own end of life plan. You can share how empowering it was, what a relief it is to have it done and that it is a selfless gift for loved ones. Then, be honest. “Awkward conversation coming up.” You would be grateful if they would do the same for you, because you want to get it right. You want to honour them well and you’ve heard how different opinions can destroy families. Just be honest. This is not easy, and it’s okay to say that. At the end of the day, they may or may not comply. All you can do is help to create a culture of change by being a great example and by starting and continuing the conversation!
To help you navigate through life, grief and death, I encourage you to learn, live by and share the 7 Take Aways.
The 7 End of Life Take Aways
1. The best time to talk about, plan and prepare for grief is when we are young and healthy. The Next Best Time is Now!
2. It Takes a Village to support: the ill, the caregiver, the dying, the bereaved and each other.
3. When someone is grieving, Just Show Up!
4. To be empowered, resilient and compassionate, Show Up For Yourself First!
5. Structure Your Life in such a way that you are self-reliant (and so are the people surrounding you).
6. Find your Post, and hold onto it.
7. What will Your Legacy be?
Take Away #1 is critical, if we want to avoid excessive suffering at the end of life—ours or when our loved ones are dying. Finally, if you want to be empowered and resilient in life and at the end of life, my call to action is:
Plan Your Life, Plan your Death,
Love Your Life to Death.
And always bring your own
Tambourine to the party!
And may you always, find a way to…
Love Your Life,
- “Through heartfelt stories of those who have been deeply impacted by loss and found happiness again, and interviews of professionals who deal with grief, death and dying, you will gain from their insightful experiences.” Purchase Yvonne’s powerful book, Love Your Life to Death by clicking here.
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- To purchase any Love Your Life products (such as the #Ijustshowedup bracelet above), click here.