originally published at www.lantern.co
By: Liz Eddy
End of life planning can feel maudlin and overwhelming. It’s challenging to think about the end and having to say goodbye, but taking the time to prepare ourselves logistically and emotionally makes it easier for our loved ones to navigate the process and helps to provide us peace of mind. Here are some things you’ll want to consider about beginning the end of life planning process.
Put Your Affairs In Order
The more information that is organized and prepared before passing, the easier it will be for the executors of your estate to manage the grieving process. There are a few essential steps you’ll want to take to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Update Your Will
If you do have a will, you’ll want to make certain it’s up-to-date and official so that the people in your life are provided with and you know your wishes will be followed. A will also helps to ensure that there is a point person in your life following up on belongings, estate matters, and more.
Data And Accounts
With so much of our lives taking place online, you’re likely to have bank payments, email accounts, and social media that needs to be closed or redirected. It’s not a bad idea to keep a list of passwords in a safe place, anyway, but you also want to make it as smooth and easy as possible for your loved ones to take care of your online presence and financials.
Possessions And Heirlooms
When you’re beginning the end of life process, you want to take stock of your belongings. Consider the things you own, the places you own, and what you want to distribute to friends and family. You have the option of donating, sharing, and passing down, so begin thinking about what’s most important to you and who you think should have it.
Consider Your Care
There are many things you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes to your end of life medical care. The more you plan, the more your friends and family will be able to advocate for you and follow your wishes.
Who Is In Charge?
There may come a point when you cannot make choices regarding your own medical care. It’s essential to have an advocate or health surrogate who knows what you want and can fight for the right care and support to honor your wishes.
When it comes to picking the best advocate, you’ll want to choose someone you trust, someone who is close, and someone you know will honor your wishes. There will be ongoing and changing conversations with this person, so open a line of communication with them.
How Much End Of Life Support Do You Want?
Thanks to modern medicine, there are many different ways to keep a person supported, so it’s essential to speak with your doctor and care advocate to determine which choices are available to you. You should make it clear how much end of life support you want. This is one of those key areas where you can have agency and control, so explore your options before moving forward.
Where Do You Want To Be?
For many, the idea of hospice care can be overwhelming and saddening. The truth is, hospice care can help to provide a comfortable and safe environment in which to spend your time, provide your loved ones with peace of mind, and allow you access to medical and emotional support. If being at home is important to you, make certain those around you know it, and understand how to advocate for your wishes.
Have Difficult Conversations
Having end of life conversations with your loved ones can be incredibly challenging. Both of you will instinctively want to shy away from difficult topics like loss and grief, so it’s important to begin discussing end of life early, so it’s easier for everyone to begin to come to terms with the idea of loss and so you can begin sharing the essential information you need to share.
An end of life conversation with children may look different than the one you might have with a spouse or friends, but they all serve the important purpose of allowing you to discuss your fears, share your love, and provide support, peace of mind, and calm to a challenging time.
There’s no rule saying who you’re allowed to have this conversation with or who deserves your time, so follow your instincts. Speak with the friends, family, or community members you feel connected to, and be open and honest about your experience and what is to come. This will help to demystify the journey and allow you and the people you care about to share your feelings freely.
Make A Plan For What’s Next
Planning your own remembrance may feel challenging, but you can share as many or as few of your wishes as you want. Decide between the different funeral or service options, and make sure your loved ones know how you want to be remembered.
It’s also worth discussing with your healthcare team and those you trust about your donation options, so you can decide if a path through education and medicine is the right next step after passing.
If there are poems, letters, or songs you wish to have shared in your memory, make a note of them. This will allow those who miss you and wish to honor you to feel more connected when they hear them. You also may want to note anything you want mentioned in a eulogy to make writing it easier for your loved ones.
Begin Coming To Your Own Peace
Easier said than done, of course. But there are many ways to begin exploring your end of life needs and finding ways to understand your own grief. Here are some methods to consider as you manage and explore your end of life planning emotions.
Many religions and cultures have their own methods and traditions for exploring and handling grief. If you are part of an organized religion or simply interested in learning more about what they say, consider speaking with a representative or reading through their end of life and afterlife beliefs.
Speaking with a grief professional can be a helpful way to understand your own feelings about the end of life process and to find methods for managing those emotions. There are many options for professional support, and you might find that speaking with someone outside of your immediate circle can be very relieving.
Sometimes the best way to understand our emotions is to speak with those who are experiencing something similar. There are unique and specialized support groups of those who will also be looking for community, love, and answers, and joining one might help you to feel seen and understood in a very personal way.
Your loved ones are there for you. The important conversations you’re having with friends and family as you begin the end of life planning process aren’t simply about logistics and care. They’re also designed to help you both find closure and support during a difficult time, so consider opening up and share your experiences.
Art and Writing
Sometimes the best way to understand your emotions is through a unique form of expression. A morning journal reflection, pottery, crafting, or painting, can all allow you the chance to express your experiences and feelings without necessarily putting them into a conversation or words. Explore your unique creative outlets and see what helps to put you most at ease.
The end of life process is ongoing and involved. It’s important to surround yourself with those you trust and love, to be honest about your needs and wishes, and to speak with the professionals who can provide you insight and support on this journey. End of life planning helps those who will be managing your belongings and accounts beyond your capability, but it also helps you to find closure and peace, so explore the way that best fits your needs as you move forward.