-You’ve written down your choices and wishes for the way your survivors for your after-death care. That’s such a gift to them! Emotions can run all over the place after a death – this is normal – but that means it’s a set-up for painful conflict if there’s disagreement as to how to honor and express our love for someone who’s died.
A lot of our feelings during this time can get parked in the Guilt area. So If it’s true for you, writing down something like this is also a gift: These are my wishes, and I know you’ll do your best to honor them. But if for any reason at all that’s not possible, you don’t need to feel guilty. I love you and I know that you love me.
–The Four Things that Matter Most by Ira Byock
This well-respected doctor of palliative care distilled his experiences into 4 guidelines to tell your loved ones as you say goodbye. These words can bring healing and connection in our relationships and be a blessing for our survivors as they grieve and go on with their lives:
-Please forgive me
-I forgive you
-I love you
-Let other people know where your guidebook is. Don’t put it in a bank safety deposit box or connected with your will. As the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) points out, those locations won’t be accessible in the period immediately following your death. Some people store it in their freezer, with a sign on the freezer door continuing over time to remind visitors to your home to look there. (That seems like a bad idea for my freezer, but it’s an option to consider.) The guidebook What If has 2 pages in the front on which to write the location of your guidebook and give to the people you’ll count on to retrieve it. Online guidebooks can be accessed by many people in their various locations, of course.
-Speaking of online documents, be sure that some of your ‘last words’ include the passwords for all of your online life, from online bill paying to social media accounts that will need to be addressed.
-Consider writing your obituary itself, as is sometimes assigned in college or med school classes on death and dying. A research study found that even seeing a picture of a gravestone helped people live more in accordance with their values (this was true for white supremacists too, unfortunately.) Writing our obituaries can be a part of how keeping our deaths in mind can help us live our lives more fully.
-Fill out sections in your guidebook:
-with information and passwords related to your online presence
-which list information to be used in writing your obituary, such as date of birth (and consider writing your obituary itself because of the way it can help us make choices as we live our lives.)
-with messages to your loved ones, including a message to relieve them of guilt if they can’t follow the wishes you’ve recorded
-to make sure trusted survivors know where your guidebook is located
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, to remember and honor people in the military who have died on our behalf. We’ve also prepared for our own deaths through filling out guidebooks and communicating with those we love. Ending this series of Planning Ahead posts, tomorrow all of the resources included in this series will be gathered into one list and posted so that you have them all in one place.
From Talking About Death Won’t Kill You (by Virginia Morris):
By bringing death out in the open, by witnessing it,
talking about it, learning about it, and trying in
whatever way we can to accept it as an inevitable part of
our lives, we can be better prepared, we can make better
decisions when the time comes, and
we can change the way we die [AND LIVE]– for ourselves and for our loved ones.
-Talking About Death Won’t Kill You
by Virginia Morris