If your end-of-life planning starts at the end of your life, you’re too late!

Tuesday, 17 Jan 2012 10:35

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

A mother prepares for birth. Couples prepare for marriage. We should all also
prepare for our final and possibly most profound life event, death. Does dying
deserve any less attention? I will say it probably deserves more.  This is why:

If death is the final act of living, the closing line to the script of the story of our lives; then it should be planned for with great care. Do not work on living a wonderful life and then, allow your dying to be haphazard.  Your whole end-of-living era should be devoted to creating physical comfort, emotional healing, and spiritual closure. Your story, the final lines of your life, should end like a great play—with resolution, reunion, and redress.  These generally do not occur accidentally, but require foresight, action, and yes, planning. Thus, your end-of-life planning should begin long before. But even more, if you address these issues now, you will find more peace even in your present phase of living.

Here’s where to start:
I. Medical/Physical:
Know your desires for your body, your remaining time, and the use of your energy. Think ahead about selecting (or refusing) medical therapies in order to maximize your quality of time and comfort at the end of life. Discuss these desires with your doctor.  Plan ahead using the Personal Self-Assessment Scale(PSAS), which clarifies and simplifies your future medical decisions. Place a copy of the Personal Self-Assessment Scale in your living will, give a copy to your doctors, and to your surrogate medical decision-makers/ family.

II. Emotional
An emotional window of opportunity will open at the end of life, which allows love to be shared more freely, old grudges to fall away in insignificance, and relationship healing to occur which seemed unobtainable at other times of life.  This time should be cultivated to gather in its full potential. I recommend sharing the following “Six Things” with as many people as possible (See It’s OK to Die, Chapter 16 for more details.)

1. “I’m sorry…(fill in your own words).”
2. “I forgive you…”
3. “Thank you…”
4. “I love you…”
5. “It’s OK to die…”
6. “Goodbye…”

III. Spiritual
Spiritual closure will be highly individualized, with as many variations as there are people. Spiritual closure is most easily obtained after emotional healing has occurred (as discussed above). An additional element of spiritual closure involves discovering or assigning meaning to your life. This may be accomplished by reviewing your life history and the lessons you have learned. Sharing these lessons can be quite cathartic as well—your successes and mistakes provide guidance for others.

A final element of spiritual closure may include making amends with God, or your concept of a higher power, or finally and for once, making peace with yourself.
Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

It’s OK to Die™

Our Book: It's OK to Die

"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.
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