Category Archives: Death

Waiting for Death

There comes a point in life when you are waiting for death.  Your first experience might be with a loved one.  Your loved one has fought the good fight, but they have lost and their time on earth is coming to a close. You are left with nothing to do but wait.

Most of us don’t wait well.  We want to do something, say something, or find something to keep us busy.  But in this case, there is nothing else to do and no where else to go.

So, what do you do in this time of waiting?

If you have something you want to say to your loved one, this is the time. Do you need to tell them you love them?  Do you want to get something off your chest? Do it now or you might miss the opportunity.  If you loved one doesn’t seem aware of what you are saying, it doesn’t mean it isn’t healing you both.

Just be there.  Hold your loved one’s hand.  Sit by their bed.  Read them a book they love. Or just sit there and be.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just being there is such a powerful statement of love.  It may seem strange that doing nothing could mean so much, but it does.  Witnessing and just being there for someone is such a powerful experience and one you will never forget.  One that will allow you to know how much you did for someone you loved.  Don’t dismiss the power of this time.

You might be saying, “it feels wrong to just be waiting for someone you love to die.” Certainly you are not doing anything active in this time, but there is nothing wrong with being there holding the space for someone to make their transition to the other side.

As a consultant, I had to learn about the power of quiet. When a colleague would ask a client a question and they didn’t have an immediate answer, I would try to jump in and fill the space.  Quiet is such an uncomfortable thing.  However, the lesson I learned (and one I really appreciate being given) is the power of the quiet.  Eventually, the client will say something and it will be their thoughts or ideas rather than mine.  The same is true here.  Just waiting will allow your loved one to make their transition knowing you have been holding the space just for them.

Just being there is precious.  It is tiring. It is hard. And it will eventually come to an end.  So while you may not enjoy this time, learn to treasure it when you have the honor of being there.

 

 

Find Your Voice!

 

Know how to tell loved ones what you wantWhen you lose your voice, you are unable to say what you want.  It means that others make decisions for you, and you may be left without what you want.  When you are dying, a lot of your strength goes toward maintaining your energy and life.  You will do other things. You will go to the doctors. You will see people you love.  You will take care of the “to dos.”

But will you use your energy to find your voice?

You will have a lot of quiet time, and in that quiet time you will do a lot of thinking. Thinking about your life. Thinking about your relationships. Thinking about any regrets you have. Thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life.  You will think about death, specifically — your death.  You will likely have hopes for what you want at the time of your death.  You might even make some decisions about what you want at that moment and in the moments leading up to your crossing over.

You may decide you want to die at home.  You may decide you want to stop your treatments because they are making you feel sicker and you want to enjoy your time. You may decide you don’t want to die alone—you want your loved ones there. There are lots of decisions you may make in this quiet time.  These decisions are yours.  It is your right. It is your life.

Now is the time to find your voice. 

Until you share these decisions, they live only in you.  You cannot ensure your wishes will come true until you voice what you want. You have to tell people what you want and what you don’t want.

Make your voice heard.

Consider Jerika Bolen’s example. A 14-year-old girl with Type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, she used her voice to say she is ready to let go of the pain she feels every day. In a recent interview, Jerika said “I was ready a long time ago, but I kept going. After that surgery — it didn’t work and my pain got worse — I kind of sat down and thought, ‘Am I doing this for me or for my family?’ I kind of realized I was doing it for my family.”  Jerika found her voice.  She stopped doing what everyone wanted her to do, and started making decisions and sharing those decisions with those who loved her and could help her make what she wants a reality (Read more about her story here http://www.wusa9.com/news/girl-14-with-incurable-disease-makes-heartbreaking-decision-to-die-1/274264618.)

Your voice allows others to know that you have made decisions. Finding your voice may not be easy, but it is your life and your death.  According to Jerika, “there is a peace in being able to confront the inevitable on her own terms.”  You don’t have to make Jerika’s decisions, but give your voice to what you do want and find your peace.  Once you have made some decisions about what you want at the end of your life, you can find your voice. Share your wishes with your loved ones, and move forward to make your wishes your reality.  That is what is important.

Find your Voice

 

If you need some help in figuring all this out and finding your path, please contact me Jackie@yourwellfinishedlife.com

Don’t Forget the Fun

How do you spend your time? Are you spending it resting, doing things you must to do, and going to and from the doctors. Where’s the fun? What brings you joy?

find-joyYou are still living, so why not live your best life? Have as much fun and joy as you can stand. When you reach a point when you can’t do what you want, don’t you want amazing memories of love, fun, and joy to carry you through? The memories that will make you happy are likely to be the ones of going to the doctors, cleaning the house, and doing errands. I would expect that the memories you will treasure are the ones that bring you pleasure. So, don’t you want more of those than of the ones that don’t?

Don’t forget in the process of dying, you are still living. Find the joy! Do what makes you happy! Stop worrying about doing things that don’t really matter! At this point in your life, the most important things are those that make you happy. Enjoy this time.

Wishing you joy, love, and peace

Jackie

If you need some help, please contact Jackie Brucker at Jackie@yourwellfinishedlife.com for coaching.

Don’t Let Your Possessions Hang on Others

As we near the end of life, we often think that we have to give away our possessions. We believe that our loved ones and friends want our prized mementos– the artifacts of our life. Is giving away our possessions an act of love from us or a burden of love for the recipient? My relatives have always given away their possessions to others—sometimes in mass. I am the only child of my parents. My grandparents only had a few grandchildren. I have one aunt and one cousin. I am from a small family. A lot of my relatives have passed away, and I have a lot of their possessions. Sometimes these possessions are treasured memories, but more often they are things I can’t part with because my relatives wanted me to have them.

So many of the items I have from my deceased relatives are not things I would ever purchase for myself. They are not things I would even choose to have in my home. They are items that my loved ones felt were so important that they needed to find them a good home, when they could not longer care for them.

After 16 years, I still have my mother’s wedding dress. My mother’s marriage was not a happy one and no one else will wear this dress. So, why is this dress taking up space in my garage? This dress has never felt like something I wanted, and I didn’t even consider wearing it for my wedding. However, I felt it was my duty to be its guardian. I think it is time to let go of the dress, and the belief that it is important to my mother that I keep it?

Before my grandmother moved to a smaller assisted living location prior to passing away, she put together bags and bags of her things that she wanted me to take to my home. They were all valuable to her, purchased in far away places, and something I “had to” hold on to. One of these items is a vase from Italy. I have never liked this vase, but I have it in my home today. My grandmother thrust it upon me with such fervor 10+ years ago. It was so important to her that I take it then, and now I can’t seem to part with it.

Maybe the loving thing for us to do is to limit the possessions we give to/ask our family and friends to “have,” and be ok with anything that happens to them after they leave our care. The items that are important to me are the ones that contain true memories of my loved ones. These items can put a smile on my face. It isn’t having a lot of things, but just one or two that I can keep as a physical reminder. When I die, who is going to want those items? They aren’t going to hold the same memories for my loved ones. They will just become a burden to someone else. I hope I will not create that burden for my loved ones.

Don’t Avoid Talking about Death to those Who are Dying

Do you believe that you shouldn’t talk about death to those who are dying? Is it unkind, uncomfortable, or somehow wrong? When we spend time with a dying loved one, we often want to avoid saying the words: death, dying, funeral, last days, etc. We try to remain upbeat, telling our loved one that they look good and that things will be fine. We spend a our time talking about every day things, sharing the latest gossip, or complaining about our lives all in an effort to not talk about what is really going on. Our loved one is dying.

Why don’t we talk about death and dying to our terminally ill loved ones? Who in the room doesn’t know that the person we love is dying? Do you believe that your friend doesn’t know they are reaching the end of their life?

I believe those facing terminal illness know they are going to die. When someone has fought the tough battle, whether they will admit it out loud or not, I believe they know they are dying. When in the process of their illness this happens is as individual as we are, but I believe it happens.

By saying nothing about what is right in front of you, the opportunity to really connect with your loved one is missed. The chance to say, “I am sorry- do you want to talk about what is happening?” is lost. The chance to hear how they are really feeling, what they are experiencing, and what they are thinking about is missed.

How would you want to spend the end of your life? Connecting with those you love or talking about mundane things that don’t matter? Share this time connecting with your dying loved ones. If we are honest about what is happening, the time together can be used to share the love between you and to give both of you the opportunity to say goodbye. Why hold yourself back? Throw all your love in; you will reap such great rewards.

Be strong enough to ask the right questions. Maybe your loved one needs your help bringing up the reality that they are dying. It is possible they are afraid to bring it up to you because they don’t know if you have accepted that their death is coming or they don’t know how you will react to the news? The emotional energy to take care of you and your feelings may not be something they have to offer at the moment, but they may have the desire to talk to you about what is happening to them. By taking that burden from them, you both win.

Don’t use your fear to stop you from talking about death to a dying friend. You will know if they aren’t ready to talk about it. But if they are, what special memories you will have of helping your friend prepare for what is to come. Don’t cheat yourself or your loved one out of this chance.

Let Death Out of the Closet

Individual Choices and Judgment

The world of death and dying has been getting a lot of press lately. What comes with all this press are a lot of comments about which choices are right and which are wrong in other people’s death and dying situations. We live in a country where we all have the right to make individual choices. We have the freedom to make decisions about how we express our sexuality, whether or not we have families, what religion we choose to practice, whether to bear arms, and so much more. In addition to these individual choices, we have the right and freedom to be vocal about our beliefs. With all this freedom comes the responsibility to use our speech to express our beliefs carefully, so as to not trample on the individuals choices and decisions of others.

With a 24-hour media cycle and easy access to information and ideas via the internet, people are getting more and more information about others’ individual choices. Many people seem to be very comfortable sharing their dislike and disapproval for the decisions of others. Specifically, I am talking about choices related to death and dying.

Brittany Maynard made a great deal of news for her decision on how to end her life. There were those that applauded her decision, but many were critical. In a world where all of us want individual choices, don’t we have a responsibility to allow others the same freedom of choice even if we don’t agree with it?

If diagnosed with a terminal illness, shouldn’t you have the right to your individual choice, even in terms of how your life ends? Don’t you want the right to make your choices without the judgment of others, especially from those that do not or cannot truly understand your situation? We will all face our own mortality and some of us will have advanced warning about when we will die. At that time, wouldn’t it be wonderful and a loving gift if our friends, loved ones, and the rest of the world supported our decisions, knowing that the individual choice we have made is the right one for us, rather than condemn and denigrate us at this vulnerable time in our life?

Don’t Wait

Don’t wait to do all the things you want to do
Don’t wait to say all the things you want to say
Don’t wait to spend time with those you love
Don’t wait to enjoy life
Don’t wait to be happy
Don’t wait to figure out what you want when you pass out of this world, because waiting may lead to not getting what you want

Do all the things that make you happy
Do spend time with those you love
Do make good memories for those who love you to cherish when you are gone
Do be happy
Do enjoy all you have been given
Do think about how you want your life to end

Most importantly,
Know that the end of your life can be happy and full of wonderful things
Know that the end of your life doesn’t have to mean a total loss of control
Know that you can help others know what you want and they can help ensure you get it
Know that you are loved

Maybe the Fly has a Lesson for Me

I wonder if the fly is one of my animal totems right now, as I have had a number of them find their way into my house this weekend. I have learned from Lin’s Domain that the fly teaches us to be persistent…to not give up. Maybe the flies in my house are trying to remind me that I need to keep fighting for what I want.

I know what I want. I want to help you figure out how to find peace and joy at the end of your life. Maybe I have given up in a way–I just don’t know how to find you. How do I find you and reach out to you? How do I to talk to you in a way that shows you that I care about you and what your limited time on earth looks like? It doesn’t matter to me what you want as long as you find a way to get it. Some people want things I would never want, but that is ok. I will not judge you or what you want. I will not tell you what you want isn’t right. Who am I to tell you that what you feel or want is wrong? What I want to do is help you figure out what you want, ask for it, and to continue to find joy in all that life has to offer you. I think that is definitely something worth fighting for and not giving up on. So, I guess maybe I do need to take a lesson from the fly and persist on and not give up.

Help me find you. Help me find your loved ones. Let me be of assistance!

Feeling Grateful

Gratefulness has been in the front of my mind for a while now, and I am working on being grateful for as much of my life experience as I can. I am not perfect, and I will be a work in progress until my last breath on this earth.

I have a lot to be grateful for. I am a very lucky woman. I know what my soul’s path is and I know, at least in part, how to fulfill that path. For that I am grateful. I also try to be grateful for the little things, like a sunny warm day after a long wet weekend, which is exactly what we had here in VA today.

Every one of us faces the fact that our time on this earth is getting shorter. We may have one day, one week, one year, or many years to spend here on earth. No matter how much time we have left, it feels so much better to sit in a place of gratefulness than to forget what gifts we have and how lucky we are to have had the experiences we have chosen in life.

When we know our time is growing shorter, we can spend of lot of time thinking about what didn’t happen, what we didn’t have or get, and remembering all the things we did wrong. Instead, I challenge you to sit in a place of gratefulness for all you do have, all the people who you touched and who touched you, and the good things that have happened in your life.

I know that as soon as I start thinking of what I am grateful for, an instant smile comes to my face. See if that happens for you. You know, smiling releases endorphins and instantly lift your mood making you happier. So, in a time when it may feel that there is nothing to be happy about, you can make yourself happier by being grateful and letting it bring a smile to your face. Why not give it a try?

Wishing you Peace and Joy

Jackie

A New Year’s Resolution to Start Talking about Death

I recently submitted an article for possible publication to a holistic magazine. I waited for the spring edition, because I didn’t want it published in November. Also, I have been on vacation for 17 glorious days, and marketing was supposed to be one of my main activities. Not send emails or make phone calls, but to get prepared to do them after the first of the year. If I have jumped into a death and dying business and I am reluctant to talk about issues around death and dying during the holidays, why would I be surprised that others are as well?

I have made so many excuses, but mostly they boil down to this one: death isn’t a topic people want to think about at the holidays. But in reality most people don’t want to talk about, think about, or face it — ever. There are lots of people, who have invariable found out, in the last 2-3 months, that they are dying. These people were absolutely thinking about their death and the process of dying during this holiday season. But did they and their loved ones talk about death during this time? My guess would be that they did so as little as possible. Now that we have started a new year it is time to face the fact that the monster, we call death, is still standing in the corner.

Let’s pull that monster into the light and face it head on. People get sick and pass away during the holidays. My own personal Facebook feed has shown me the truth of this fact. I know a number of people, who have been dealing with a recent death this holiday season. I also know there are many others who are reliving the death of loved ones from previous holiday seasons. Let’s make a resolution to start talking about what is happening and not make death the unspoken elephant in the room any longer.

Not talking about the fact that you are dying just adds more stress to you and your body. In addition, your loved ones are thinking about it, but don’t want to bring it up. Let’s use this new year as an opportunity to treat death not as something to be avoided, but what it really is….a natural part of life. Let’s teach our loved ones that talking about death and dying is not just something we have to do, but what we should be doing. By not talking about it, we give it a negative power, one that hurts everyone around us. By talking about it, you can make it a positive discussion of your wishes, a way to share your feelings and allow your loved ones to do the same. Isn’t that a better way to deal with the topic of death than to ignore it and hope it will go away? Let me tell you, it will never go away.

Since we are all going to die, some sooner than others, let’s use this opportunity to help make talking about death more palatable, a more “normal” part of life. So, I ask you to make another New Year’s resolution, talk about your death. Don’t put it in the closet and think about it when you are alone. Don’t avoid the topic with your loved ones either. Let’s get the conversation of death out of the closet and into the light, where the monster can be seen for what it is – a natural part of life for all of us.