Monday, June 16, 2008

Planning For Death - Part One

It is amazing the different ways that people respond to the dreaded words, “You have a terminal illness.” Some panic and get hysterical. (I might just do that.) Others withdraw into a dark depression. Other’s wage an intricate war with battle plans that rival any major military action.

Sometimes they continue that battle long past the time when winning is even a hope. Is that better than giving in to the inevitable? I don’t know. I try always not to judge someone’s coping mechanism, and sometimes pretending is the only way to cope.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for accepting the inevitable. It affords time to take care of the business of one’s life ending. I can’t tell you how many widows in my support groups were struggling with the anger they felt at their husbands who did not put things in order so the wife could carry on with financial and other matters. And that is still a significant issue with couples where one or the other handles banking, investments, and household business. It would be so much easier for the person left behind if he or she were thoroughly briefed before their spouse died.

Openly acknowledging the inevitability of death also affords time to take care of issues or problems in relationships. Nothing is harder on the patient or the family than to go through this kind of crisis with huge problems hanging over them. Old hurts can be forgiven. Words that should have been spoken can still be said. And healing can take place.

Not all families have those kinds of issues, so for them, the time left with a loved one can be used to start the grieving process and mark each moment in some special way. One family had visitors write messages in a book that were then read over and over to the dying person, then given to the next of kin after the funeral. For other families, the time of waiting was used just to treasure the person for one more day, one more minute.

And sometimes the going is easier for people who have had this kind of acceptance personally and from their family.

More about pre-planning next time.

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