How To Deal with Death
But having the initial conversations about what kind of things do you need to get taken care of? And what do you want your end of life to look like? Those conversations can open the door to other conversations and other actions, and having an honest talk about subjects that are really kind of like, almost taboo and out of the ordinary. These conversations can be so eye-opening.
Welcome to An Owner’s Guide for Your Life, the podcast that combines psychology, coaching, common sense and fun. I’m Tracy Browning, an entrepreneur, life coach and lover of people. Now let’s talk about how to live, love, make money, and change the world.
Hey, I’m glad you’re here. This is episode 14, and we’re gonna talk about how to deal with death. I know it’s a difficult subject, and no, I don’t know many people who eagerly say, “Oh, yeah, let’s talk about dying.” Your friends and family may be different than mine, and that’s okay. But it’s not happening in my circles that we just eagerly sit down to talk about it.
You know, we think about it to different degrees and at different times. But most of us don’t really want to talk much about death. And yet death is absolutely 100% the only option we have at the end of our physical life. We all face it.
I’m talking about it now because my father-in-law passed away over the weekend. And this isn’t the first death of someone close to us. And no, it’s not going to be the last.
But as we’re walking through this part of our journey, my thoughts today are in two general areas, and I want to share some of them with you. The first area is preparing for death, and the second one is grieving.
When someone you love has died and thinking and talking about death, it can help you figure out how you want to live in a way. It’s like being the ultimate owner of your life, to live your life with the end in mind.
So we’ll start with preparing ourselves for our death, and I’m not going to get too morbid here. I mean, it is what it is. It’s part of life.
But let’s start with this- getting our affairs in order, and I will not go into a lot of detail on this, but things like wills, living wills. Maybe you need to establish a trust. Do you need to get power of attorney paperwork lined up? What is your insurance like? Do you have long term health insurance? What are your financial plans? Who are your beneficiaries? Who are the executors of your estate?
There’s a lot of stuff, a lot of arrangements, a lot of paperwork to get taken care of. Think about it. If you haven’t tackled it, at least begin thinking about it.
And really let this just serve as a reminder to look at your life and where you are in your life and what you might need and plan with your end in mind.
And in our oh, so heavily digital world, think about your passwords and who’s got access to your accounts. Think about having somebody else who knows your passwords and who can be put on your accounts. That can save a lot of agony. And this is long before death. You can really save a lot of agony to have that taken care of.
And yes, all of this can be a hassle, but a hassle now can save you or your spouse or your children a lot of pain in the future. I promise you, we’ve lived it, taking care of these kinds of things so much easier on your family or whoever’s making those decisions for you or with you.
And if you’re in the situation where you need this kind of paperwork and these kinds of decisions to be made, stress and tension and emotion, they’re high, and it’s harder to make good, calm decisions in that state. So the more you can get those kinds of details taken care of, you can make a hard time, much more peaceful now.
No, conversations about these kinds of things are not always fun, but it really can feel good to talk through and make decisions. My husband and I, we’ve had different conversations with our own parents. We’ve had them with each other. We’ve had them with our sons, with our sisters and their husbands, all these at different times, and they were triggered by different events.
We didn’t figure everything out in one fell swoop. That wasn’t the point. But having the initial conversations about what kind of things do you need to get taken care of? And what do you want your end of life to look like?
Those conversations can open the door to other conversations and other actions. And having an honest talk about subjects that are really kind of like, almost taboo and out of the ordinary, these conversations can be so high opening, you might realize something that it’s more important to you than you thought it was. Or maybe you figure out your significant other has an opinion that is dramatically different from yours.
None of this is bad. None of it’s wrong. It’s just worth exploring.
Now, I’ve got a few resources for you. There are a lot available, but here are three that I think are super helpful and in different ways. And I’ll put the links in the transcript, too.
One is the Conversation Project. They have a conversation starter guide. They seem to have a number of resources that are a little more focused on helping somebody with terminal illness, but they kind of kick off with the saying, “It always seems too soon until it’s too late.”
Well, it’s pretty sobering, but it’s accurate. They’ve got good resources for you to think through for yourself, but also to figure out how to start these conversations and what you want to say in the conversation. So that’s a really good resource.
Another one that I found that I like and it’s an interactive. I think they’ve got a physical deck of cards or something physical you can order, but they also have something interactive online. It’s called After Planner, afterplanner.com and they look at it as you have five chapters to deal with- care, body, ceremony, treasures, and legacy.
So you look at how you want to be cared for in your last chapter of life, how you want your body to be laid to rest after you pass, how you want your life to be honored and memorialized. What do you want to do with your assets and with legacy? How does your story and your values live on after you’re gone?
Now they’ve got five cards in each section and each one asks you a question and you think it through and you answer it. You can share it with other people. You can make some of your answers public. You can do with it what you want to do.
But let me share these five questions that they’ve got for the Legacy section. The first one is how will your life story be preserved? Maybe you’ve never even thought about it. Or maybe you thought, well, I want to be sure I’ve got some pictures or I want to do a video or I want to write a letter. Do you want to preserve your life story?
The second question, what causes can people support to honor you?
The third, who do you still want to settle up with? That is such an interesting question. Did somebody immediately come to mind? Maybe, maybe not, maybe more than one person? I don’t know, but wow, isn’t that a loaded question?
The fourth one, who would you like to leave a letter or video to?
And the last one, who do you hope will carry on your legacy? They’re really, really good questions.
Now the next resource I want to share with you is called, it’s called the Death Deck, and it’s actually marketed as a lively party game. Here’s the description. There are 112 cars with a pic of multiple choice of open ended questions guaranteed to spark lively discussion around the topic of death.
Here’s two sample questions. The first one: you get to relive one day in your life before you die. Which one would it be? Alright. I read this question earlier this afternoon. I can’t decide. I have a lot of days I’d like to relive. Not that I like, hang out in the past, but I’ve had a lot of great days. I don’t know, but wow, to think about that question.
Here’s the next one. All right. How do you want your demise announced on social media? Do you want to immediately put it out there or you never want it mentioned or you don’t care because you’re dead? Okay, they’re just drastically different questions, but there you go. The Death Deck.
So a few different resources, maybe one of them catches your attention, gets you thinking. And that’s my goal with this podcast is to get you thinking about what do you want to do in your life.
Part of being a responsible owner of your life is being a responsible owner of your death.
So if you’re having trouble with the conversation, use some of these resources. If you want to introduce the conversation with somebody, you can tell them, “Hey, I heard this podcast. Maybe you want to listen to it” or “What do you think about this?” Use this. Use it to prepare yourself and your family.
Now, the second area that I’ve been thinking about is how to grieve. And I think it’s so important for us to know there is not a right way to grieve. How each one of us grievesm it’s influenced by our personality, who we’re grieving for, what our relationship was with the person who passed. What are our previous experiences with death? What are our plans for the future? How have they been impacted by this loss? What’s our faith? What are our beliefs about life and death and life after death?
And also very practically our grief is influenced by all the other things going on in life at the time of our loss. If you’re already feeling stressed and overwhelmed and somebody close to you dies, prepare for a tsunami of overwhelming stress, just know that it’s coming. You can prepare for it. You can soften the stress and the overwhelm.
Now, you may have heard about the five stages of grief. Elizabeth Kubler Ross, back in the late sixties introduced them. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Now, these stages are good to know, but it’s most important to know that how you grieve depends on you. You don’t have to go through all the stages. You don’t have to go through the stages in order for you to heal. It’s not a set time, and there’s not a set way to mourn your loss. You’ll have good days, you’ll have hard days, and it may take weeks, maybe months, maybe years for you to feel like your life has adjusted to the absence of the person that you’ve lost.
I found this quote from the Hospice Foundation of America.
“Instead of a series of stages, we might also think of the grieving process as a roller coaster full of ups and downs. Highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning. The lows may be deeper and longer.
The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by. But it takes time to work through a loss. Even years after a loss, especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.
I just think that is such an appropriate quote. Think of grief like a roller coaster. It really can feel like it.
Now I’ve got a few tips of my own here. They’re quick. The first one-
Let your feelings breathe. Feel what you feel. Our grief, in whatever form it takes, our grief shows that the person we’ve lost, they meant something to us.
- Maybe you cry. Maybe you don’t. Crying can be a normal grief reaction, but it’s not the only reaction. And it’s not a direct reflection of your sadness.
- People grieve differently. I grieve differently than my husband. I grieve differently at one time than I do another.
- Remember that continuing to live your life doesn’t mean that you don’t miss the person who’s gone or that you forget about them.
- Take care of yourself as best you can- rest, eat, drink water. Do these things. You need to take care of yourself.
- Let people help you. It’s a blessing for them and you.
- Ask for help when you need it.
I think a good summary of my tips is GRACE & SPACE for yourself and for others.
Now I want to close with a memory. My father-in-law loved to eat hamburgers and fries. He would choose that over any other meal. Steak, it was okay, but burgers and fries, buddy, you had his attention. Now, we’re not even sure how this particular thing got started. But my three sons, we spent years with them evaluating their French fries to find the longest one. And once they found it, they’d wrap it up in a napkin to save for their PawPaw because they knew he’d appreciate it. I think at one point there was, I think, somebody may have sold, like, the longest French Fry on Ebay. That may have been how this got started. I don’t know, but this went on for years. The longest French Fry. PawPaw’s gonna love this.
So next time you eat French fries, think a kind thought of my father-in-law AND think of the legacy that you want to leave behind.
Now let’s go live, love, leave a legacy and change the world.