Creating Emotional Wellness at the End of Life

Monday, 17 Sep 2012 09:39

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

Emotional wellness is important to cultivate in all phases of living, but may be most naturally available at the end of life—the very time when the wellness of the body may be waning.

How is this so?

When people have a sure knowledge that they are nearing the end of their lives, a new type of energy is unleashed. Old inhibitions and blockages may be released. An emotional and spiritual window of opportunity opens 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 window of opportunity must be used wisely, as it may be a short-lived gift. Death may come in days to months, so this time should be cultivated to gather in its full potential.

Here are my 4 recommendations for cultivating Emotional Wellness at the End of Life:

1- Say your Six Things

I believe there are Six Things that must be said to those who are dying and by those who are dying (regardless of whether the receiving party reciprocates the sentiments or not). Be aware that deep or hidden feelings will be released during conversations guided by these six statements:1

1. “I’m sorry…” use your own words. (“I’m sorry that I didn’t visit more.”)

2. “I forgive you…” (“I forgive you for your drinking.”)

3. “Thank you…” (“Thank you for staying with me.”)

4. “I love you…”  (“I will love you forever.”)

5. “It’s OK to die…” (“It’s OK for me to go now, you will be OK too.”)

6. “Goodbye…” (Farewell my love.”)

True expression of these six sentiments allows the release of powerful emotional energies enabling all parties to come to peace and closure (a settling of affairs), all the while creating acceptance of the dying process.

2- Freely express grief

Grief is a natural and expected response to the ending of life. There is no magic trick allowing anyone to circumvent grief. Instead, consciously entering deeply into grief may, in fact, accelerate emotional healing. Choosing to grieve freely and openly cleanses the mind and emotions of anger, depression, and other negative thoughts and energies- which may instead become stored, if ignored or repressed.

3- Focus on beauty, love and joy

Surround yourself with the people and things that you love. Listen to the music which moves you most. Seat yourself where you can see your favorite view. Smell the flowers which remind you of your childhood. Call old friends. Read your most cherished books (or have them read to you). Focus on those things which bring you joy, those things which magnify your feelings of love and clarify your sense of beauty.

4- Leave a Legacy

A legacy is a gift that is passed on which may transform the life of the receiver. Legacies may be given in the form of emotional and spiritual gifts and knowledge, not material items alone. What emotional or spiritual legacy might you pass on to others? What life lessons have you learned that might benefit your friends and family? Record the story of your life, how you have felt during challenges, and the consequences of your choices, both good and bad—pass this on as your personal legacy (a written document, or audio/video recordings). What if this legacy changed the course of another person’s history, or even changed the history of the world?

Practicing these 4 steps will cultivate peace, closure and emotional wellness at the end of life, and in any stage of living—even where you are now.

Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

(Portions of this essay were excerpted from the book It’s OK to Die, and were used with permission from MKN, LLC.)

1. These “Six Things” borrow from and were inspired by Dr. Ira Byock’s book, “The Four Things That Matter Most.”

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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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One thought on “Creating Emotional Wellness at the End of Life

  1. Robert Jones


    I agree. The need to be strong led to the American idea of independence. Death can notify— of the need for interdependence. The book, and the site– ” OK to die”— bring peaceful moderation between extreme American concepts. Your book, and your site are an emergency room for the human spirit. Well done!


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