Let’s bust this myth right now: talking about death is not going to make you die any sooner.
The truth is that by being realistic about death and understanding that it is going to happen to all of us at some point, allows you the mental space and courage to plan for it effectively. Think of it this way: you plan for all other major events in your life – marriage, birth, career and retirement – but not the biggest one of all… death!
Imagine the feeling of empowerment you’d get from knowing that, if you were to die tomorrow, your life could be neatly tied up in bow by your loved ones. No scratching around for documents or wishes, no fights between family members over what they think you’d want, no unanswered questions, no unnecessary admin to add to their grief. Just a neatly laid out plan. Oh, the relief.
Here, my top 5 tried and tested things to do to plan for a good death…
1. Sort Out Your Advanced Care and After Death Directives
Your Advanced Care Directive is one of the most important end-of-life documents available. It gives you the opportunity to provide clear instructions around what level of healthcare and intervention you want under certain medical conditions.
The crazy thing is that so few people even know this exists!
Your Advanced Care Directives, together with your Health Care Power of Attorney, step in when you’re unable to speak for yourself (think: coma and other cognitive impairments), and covers everything from your spiritual beliefs to what life-prolonging measures you’re willing to accept.
It’s not a legally binding document but it does help guide the decisions made about your health care, and help your family (and doctors) make the best possible choices for you.
Other things you need to consider include who you assign to be your Health Care Power of Attorney – aka ’Your Cheerleader’. This role is imperative to get right, because this person may need to push back against doctors and other family members to see your wishes fulfilled. Think hard about this one, as parents and partners aren’t always the best choice.
Another document is the 5-Wishes Document. There is some crossover with your Advanced Health Directives, but it also addresses your emotional and spiritual needs as well.
A Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) informs health professionals not to attempt resuscitation if your heart or breathing stops, but it doesn’t mean to stop all care or treatment. Reasons for a DNR often relate to beliefs and choices about health care, terminal illness, a serious condition (like multi organ failure) that isn’t expected to get better or if the person is very elderly or frail.
Finally, Organ and Tissue Donation. Do you want to donate your organs and tissues? If so, you’ll need to let people know before you die so the hospital can contact the appropriate people to make your wish a reality. Organs can only be accepted under certain circumstances, but by having the right people know that’s your wish, you’re much more likely for success.
I recommend scheduling a full day in your diary to get your end-of-life paperwork sorted rather than trying to it sporadically – it never works! Just get in the zone and power through. You can find all the documents online with a quick google search but if you have any trouble reach out, I’m happy to help.
2. Write a Spiritual Will
The power of writing a Spiritual Will is never lost on me and my dream is to share the magic of this document so it becomes ‘the norm’ to have one.
A Spiritual Will – also known as Legacy Letter or Ethical Will – is a written document that touches on your values, beliefs, traditions, memories, wisdom, hopes and dreams for the future and passes your legacy down to future generations.
What do you want to be remembered for? What is your life’s purpose? All these things and so much more are explored and it really is the ultimate gift to leave your family.
I’m continuously tweaking and adding to my Spiritual Will and the sense of fulfillment I get from writing it to my sons is overwhelming. I know that no matter what happens tomorrow, they’ll have a piece of my heart on paper for them to keep forever. What a gift, right?
You can download my free guide to writing a Spiritual Will here
3. Pre-plan Your Funeral
I can’t tell you the number of families I talk to who really have no idea what their loved ones want when they die. To my horror I found out my mum thought my dad wanted to be cremated, when in reality he wants to be buried. Imagine if we never had that conversation.
A funeral is an ancient ritual of love and respect. Honouring someone’s life in a way that’s in-line with their wishes is crucial to the process, which is why I’m such an advocate for funeral pre-planning.
When I pre-plan a funeral with someone we dive deep. We explore all aspects of their life to tailor-make a funeral service that’s just right for them. The result is a fully customised funeral service that’s perfectly planned, eliminating any guess work for the family. It’s magic to see come to life.
4. Finalise Your Legal Will
If you haven’t looked at your Will for a few years (or made one in the first place) then now’s the time to revisit it. Sure, it’s a life admin task we’d rather not tackle but think of the satisfaction you’ll get when you know it’s all in place.
5. Face Your Fears
I’ve saved the best for last because you know what happens when you lean into your fear of death? It dissolves. You find an inner strength you never knew you had, you feel empowered to take charge of your life and that small stuff you’re constantly sweating? Well, that seems completely insignificant when you look at what you have in front of you.
Tackling this epic fear is no small feat, it’s taken me a long time and a commitment to my own spiritual journey to finally have the courage to give mortality the love and respect it deserves. I promise you that by accepting the reality of death, you have the potential to live a more meaningful, fulfilled and passionate life.
Start small. Just sit in silence with your eyes closed and start exploring your feelings around death. See what comes up for you. Do you feel tight in your chest? Do you want to run away? Are you totally okay with it? Explore these feelings and start asking why. Every thought, emotion or physical response that comes up – question it. Keep questioning until you get to the root of your fear, then breathe it in and release. Keep breathing through your fear until it’s no longer there. This might take a few (or lots of) sessions but keep at it. I’ll give you more advice on this once you’ve tackled the first hurdle. One step at a time, friends.