Tongue-tied when it comes to end of life conversations?

May 28, 2020

Begin from a place of love and understanding.

Talking about the end of life and our legacy is one of the biggest conversations that most people are not having right now. However, with the right setting and a few well-timed questions, you can begin to turn seemingly difficult conversations into positive and important engagement. Don’t delay these conversations until it is too late. When crisis strikes and tensions are high is the worst time to launch into the many details surrounding end-of-life. Here are a few tips to inspire discussions and celebrate living and dying on your, and your loved ones’ own terms.  

Timing is everything

Talking about death is a difficult and important conversation. To make it easier, timing is everything. First of all, it’s nearly impossible to have a soulful conversation around end-of-life intentions during the holidays. A better plan is to find a time when you can have a long, frank conversation that covers all end-of-life wishes. Some of these wishes may range from the song, poem or art that you wish to have present as you pass. Another important conversation may concern the most appropriate recipient of a particular family heirloom of piece of furniture. These decisions made today may seem insignificant, but by planning ahead makes it easier to respect the wishes of a loved one.  Just one conversation starts it, but having regular conversations afterward allows you to turn something difficult into something meaningful and loving.

Setting the tone

An ideal place to begin planning for death and dying is the dinner table. This is the place where coming together is familiar and safe. You also may want to use gentle, non-probing questions. To begin engaging with your parents, for example, you may want to begin talking about general estate planning documents. A good first questions is always ‘when was the last time you had your will reviewed?’ This easy question naturally leads into many other questions surrounding death and dying. The most important thing that you can do after you ask your question is listen. Understanding the end-of-life wishes of your loved ones while they are alive makes it easier to comfort them when tragedy strikes. When we have the opportunity to respect the final wishes of our loved ones, we are provided an opportunity to show our true love.

Share the love

Having these raw conversations and sharing our end-of-life wishes lets us complete the stories of a life well lived. Sharing end-of-life wishes with a loved one helps us think about how we want to be remembered. By empowering the speaker and listening closely, we can learn more about someone we love, and the places and things that inspired and shaped our lives. If you are having trouble beginning conversations around end-of-life, there are many resources available to you.  The Hospice Foundation, the Conversation Project, and Death Over Dinner are just a few resources to help you learn how to launch into your memorable conversations. You may also want to reach out to a professional financial advisor, trustee or counselor to navigate through the end of life process. Committing to regular gatherings to share details surrounding death and dying can create treasured memories and allow you to respect the final wishes of your loved ones.

Are you having end of life conversations with your loved ones?

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