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End-Of-Life Planning Makes It Easier To Say Goodbye

This is a guest post by Dr. Barbara Okun and Dr. Joseph Nowinski.


End-Of-Life Planning Makes It Easier To Say Goodbye

Saying goodbye as the end of life approaches can be difficult, even for those with a gift for words. In a moving account in a recent issue of The New Yorker, writer Joyce Carol Oates describes the last week of her 49-year marriage, as her husband was dying from complications of pneumonia. Like A Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s poignant memoir of her husband’s sudden death and its aftermath, Oates’ essay highlights the need for each of us to think about death and dying — and discuss them with loved ones — long before they become a likelihood.

In our work with individuals and families facing death, we have seen too many people miss the opportunity to say goodbye because they avoid what feels like a scary or taboo topic: What do I want to happen when I die? Beginning this discussion early, preferably while you are in good health, can help pave the way for a “good death.” In our new book, Saying Goodbye: How Families Can Find Renewal Through Loss, we offer a guide to help individuals facing a terminal illness and their families navigate the realities of death and dying. Planning ahead is essential. Here are some suggestions for doing that:

Choose your team. Identify support people and specialists (legal, medical, financial, religious) you can count on to advocate for you and help you make decisions. Designate these people to act for you by signing advance medical directives. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

The Right To Mourn

Grief and lossI seem to have had a run on bereavement recently, in that I’ve had several patients who have lost loved ones. Some have wound up in my office for unrelated complaints, only to have the grief spill out. I’ve become aware of the struggles of others via Facebook.

I’ve found this handout (from Family Practice Management several years ago) to be very useful. I keep copies in my office and hand them out when needed, but it occurs to me that having another way to disseminate this helpful information would be a good idea. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

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