Talking about end of life decisions and death can be uncomfortable. Talking about death and end of life care decisions with the ones we are closest to can be paralyzing. Maybe the difficulty comes from the desire to avoid any thoughts of losing the ones we love. Perhaps it is an expression of denying the reality of death. Even though death is a reality everyone faces, we often avoid it in our conversations. When we do discuss it, is often at time when its presence is looming. At this point, the conversation surrounding end of life decisions is often taking place when stress is high, exhaustion is unavoidable, and emotions responding in full force. While we should have these conversations with the ones we love, the timing can greatly impact the way we leave it. These conversations are best had often, and not limited to what feels like desperate situations.
The conversations will vary, but the following are some things I think are worth consideration and discussion when thinking about making end of life decisions:
– Discuss what type of health care intervention you and your loved ones would want, or not want.
– Talk about palliative care.
– Discuss what you would consider ordinary care versus extraordinary care.
– Try to understand the personal values held by one another. Don’t shy away from ethical concerns and if you are troubled by something discuss it earlier rather than later when a decision must be made.
– Talk about your spiritual state with one another.
These conversations can be difficult, but they are important. The necessity of these conversations has recently become a reality in my family. A loved one is facing the end of their time on earth, and difficult decisions are being made. These types of situations have the power to bring a family together or tear them a part. I encourage you to be in the first category. I’m sharing some ways I have observed that are conducive to handling it well:
– Communicate well and often with one another.
– Make decisions together, and be humble in your approach.
– Be forgiving of one another; high stress situations have the tendency to bring out hurt we’ve been holding on to and unresolved issues, respond in love to one another and forgive the hurt you may be holding.
Neither of the above lists are exhaustive, but a reflection of what I have seen as valuable in my own experience. I share this in the hope that others will be encouraged to talk with their families about end of life decisions. Ask hard questions and listen to the answers. Respond in grace to one another. And most importantly, always be mindful of the redemption Christ offers – He overcame death so we do not have to.