It can be difficult to bring up the subject of death, but it is one of the most important conversations you can have with your loved ones, especially if you don't wish to burden them with difficult decisions regarding your end-of-life care.
Studies show that it's better to have this discussion when you are healthy, without the pressure and stress of a serious illness to deal with. Studies also show that 56% of people have not expressed their end-of-life wishes to loved ones.
One thing is certain: death is something that everyone will experience. The sooner you have the conversation about your hopes and expectations during the final days, the greater the chance they will be respected and followed.
We feel it is so important to help people broach this difficult conversation that we have collected some resources that may make the subject less scary, and might help you talk about it in a useful way. Feel free to let us know about resources that were helpful to you!
Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Ellen Goodman talks about the importance of the end-of-life conversation:
- The Conversation Project provides a starter kit to help you express your wishes for end-of-life care. Sign up for their excellent newsletter.
- This article by Mandy Ferguson provides an engaging way in to the subject for people in their 20s and younger.
- Advice from the National Caregivers Association on how to begin and gently navigate the discussion when talking to someone with a terminal illness.
- The Death Cafe movement is a global phenomenon where people gather to eat cake and talk about death in a nonthreatening environment. If cake isn't your thing, there have even been Death by Chocolate Death Cafes. Use our Death Cafe Cheat Sheet to host your own event!
- The Pulse Radio Show talks about how My Gift of Grace, a game by the design company The Action Mill, helps players put a positive spin on 'gaming' death.
- This San Francisco Guardian article talks about death midwives, people who help others navigate through the death and dying process.
- My Gift of Grace card game is an award-winning conversation game for living and dying well.
- Day of Reminiscence: A UK-based initiative by the group To Absent Friends, which encourages people to spend some time remembering loved ones.
- The National Institute of Nursing Research has developed the Palliative Care Conversations Matter campaign, with many useful resources.
- Atul Gawande on how to talk about end of life care with a dying patient:
If you want to take the next step of making your wishes official, visit our Palliative Care Tookit and Advance Care Directives for help with the forms.
The subject is receiving increasing attention in the media. Two timely articles are linked below.
Atul Gawande has written a Huffington Post article in response to Brittany Maynard’s death from assisted suicide: Being Mortal: Why We Need to Start Talking about Death Again
In another Huffington Post article Karen M. Wyatt, author of What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, provides tips for talking with loved ones about the end of life.