Dying Well

In Speaking of Dying Workshops, facilitators ask participants to envision what “dying well” might look like to them.

This exercise comes after they have already learned about the importance of having a Health Care Power of Attorney; have listened to stories, and shared information about current medical options and end-of-life resources; have learned about “the real work of dying” (reviewing your life, asking for and giving forgiveness, saying goodbye and “I love you” to family and/or friends); and after writing  down their wishes and discussing them with others.

Only then do workshop participants spend time reflecting on the following questions:

  • Do they see themselves dying in a hospital? In a nursing home? At their own home? Outside?
  • Do they want others there with them? If so, whowould they want?? Or do they prefer to be alone?
  • Do they want special music playing? Are there readings they might like to hear? Certain religious or spiritual rituals they want performed?
  • Do they want to be free of pain, even if that means they are asleep and/or unable to talk? Or do they prefer to be conscious? Do they see value in suffering?

In our culture today, we typically don’t consider such things until death is imminent — if ever. Our society treats death as if it’s a medical event, or a legal one. In fact, death is a personal event. Our death belongs to us.

Sometimes these important questions may come up in the doctor’s office or at the time of a terminal diagnosis. But they are much easier to think about when we are still healthy. It’s even easier when we have become comfortable discussing end-of-life issues, resources and possibilities with a group. This is what the Speaking of Dying Workshops offer.

A recent Workshop participant wrote, “Planning for my own death has made my life better.”

Each person will envision their own end of life differently, but everyone desires what I like to describe as “a peaceful and meaningful death,” rather than “a painful or dwindling death.” To me, “dying well” means dying the death you have envisioned for yourself.

Dying well is a privilege we all deserve. May we envision it, ask for it, and advocate for it.

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