How to plan for the end of your life
Posted by AK Lander | On July 16, 2020 11:55
Dying well is something we all desire. Learn how to plan for the end of your life with this guide, helping to attain peace of mind for you and your family.
Knowing that the end of your life is near is a truly difficult realisation for many of us. The fear of dying, the uncertainty, and the impact it will have on your family is not an easy thing to manage. However, planning for the end of your life is an important process to take. From planning your funeral, sorting out legal matters, and perhaps most importantly of all, facing your emotions, there’s a lot to think about.
Making clear the importance of planning for the end of your life, Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief says: “People who make arrangements to address these issues generally feel a real sense of satisfaction knowing they have done everything they can to assist their loved ones should illness or death strike.
“Families, too, come through the adverse events much better when the party involved has taken the basic preparatory steps.”
In this guide, we present a handful of ways you can prepare and plan for the end of your life. It’s all about putting your mind at ease, knowing that everything is taken care of, that your family is looked after, and that you yourself are able to face death with dignity and acceptance.
Reach out to others
While there is a lot to plan and arrange technically for the end of one’s life, each person needs to find a way to deal personally with this difficult period. Whether you are experiencing physical or emotional pain, reaching out to others – professionals and loved ones – can be a real help. Bonita, a hypnotherapist and life coach from Hypnotherapy Associates, shared with us her advice:
“Everybody is different during this time as the physical deterioration can affect people’s mental state as well as medication. Some people are very fearful whereas others are the opposite and feel extremely peaceful during this time. Find someone you can speak openly with about your fears, whether that be about managing pain (if applicable) or the ‘unknown’ aspects of what happens to us when we pass away. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions and have those honest conversations with family and friends.”
Bonita also spoke to us about how hypnotherapy, in particular, can help when preparing for death: “Hypnotherapy can help release any fears you may be experiencing, as well as ease physical pain through visualisation. It can also help to decrease anxiety and increase relaxation so day-to-day living is more comfortable. Often people are worried about loved ones feeling sad and/or leaving young children behind. Hypnosis can help them to see a happy future for their loved ones and/or children and that they will be ok. Hypnotherapy is tailored for the person, so whatever an individual is experiencing the treatment is created to suit them.”
Think about how you would like to be remembered
Connected to the above is how we want to be remembered by those we love. One of the most difficult parts of coming to terms with dying is overcoming the sorrow at leaving loved ones behind. Many people reach the end wishing they had said something to someone, spent more time with certain people, and expressed themselves more clearly in life. Well, it’s never too late to do this.
Felicity Warner, founder of Soul Midwives – who looks to ease the passage of dying and help people pass with dignity - spoke to us about her advice for those coming towards the end of life: “It's really important to come to terms emotionally with death and not just focus on the logistics that need arranging. We all need to think about our own death long before it happens, rather than avoiding it. Having conversations with loved ones about how we feel and even the chance to say, ‘I'm sorry’ and ‘I love you’ help us to feel at ease with the dying process.
“I suggest that people write down emotionally what's really important to them, for example how they would like to be treated, and or specific fears and anxieties they might have and then put the list on their fridge. It might prompt some interesting conversations, but our emotional wellbeing is so connected to how we also cope physically.”
Think about those closest to you and make sure you have said everything you want to. What would you like people to know before you die? If you are particularly pained by leaving those you love, Bonita from Hypnotherapy Associates advises: “A parent can prepare a memory box and also leave gifts and letters for birthdays to come, for their children to gain future comfort from.” This way you can reach the end with peace and satisfaction.
Address legal and financial matters
Unfortunately, there are a number of legal and financial matters to attend to when planning for the end of your life. While these are never areas we want to focus on, they are important to address. For example, making a will mean that your property, funds, and possessions will reach the people that you would like. Planning for the future care of those who are dependent on you will provide peace of mind that those who need you are looked after. Investigating the costs of funerals and taking up an insurance plan will help you to stay on top of your finances. You should also give someone power of attorney so that the right decisions can be made for you if you are no longer able to make them.
Consider organ donation
Organ donation is something many people want to be able to do once they have passed on. The idea that you can help another person in seriously poor health to survive is a lovely one and it is an option that should be considered carefully. UK law now automatically opts-in everyone for organ donation and it is up to each individual to ‘opt-out’ if you decide organ donation isn’t for you. So, when looking to plan for the end of your life, take some time to think about organ donation, discuss it with your family, and inform loved ones of your final decision.
Plan your funeral
Planning your own funeral is a truly sombre thought but besides relieving pressure on your family during a very difficult time, by doing so you can also be sure that you have the send-off you desire. From choosing your desired coffin and deciding if you want to be cremated or buried, to buying a granite headstone and choosing what type of memorial service you would like - all this and more can put your mind at ease.
We spoke to the team at The Natural Death Centre – a charity which offers support and guidance for funeral planning – who offered their top advice when it comes to planning your own funeral: “The main problem the public faces is that everyone and his brother is out to sell them something and they need to be wary and check their facts.
“Funeral plans and particularly insurance-based products as advertised on afternoon TV are mainly rotten products. Filling out a funeral wishes form and discussing the contents with family or the executor is the most important thing. We provide these for free. Letting family know what you want and what if anything is in place is crucial.”
As The Natural Death Centre advises, putting all these things in place before you depart will be very beneficial to your loved ones, after all, the last thing they want to worry about is planning a funeral during their time of grief.
The Natural Death Centre also shared with us some of the important financial details when it comes to planning a funeral, which demonstrates the value of planning ahead: “Knowing the facts and options, which on the whole the funeral industry will hide, is illuminating:
- “The usual cost for basic cremation is just under £4,000.
- DIY cremation is approx. £1,200 depending on coffin choice.
- Direct, unattended cremations start from £995.
- Burial in municipal cemeteries is expensive, especially in urban boroughs.
- Natural burial sites are far cheaper (some private and corporate-backed sites can be expensive).
- Burial on private land is easy and free.”
The Natural Death Centre has a host of helpful resources to help you during this period, including a free helpline, help on how to dig a grave on your own property, DIY funerals and green burials.
Make a death plan
Making a death plan is an excellent option for the terminally ill and those who know death is near. It could really bring peace of mind and help those you care about. A death plan is a document that lists certain things that you would like to happen at the end of your life. It’s all about deciding what is most important to you.
Felicity from Soul Midwives shares: “My top piece of advice for someone planning for the end of their life is to think what is really important for them (not expected of them) where would they like to die (if they 're able to choose), who would they like with them during the last days, what soothes them when they are feeling ill and frightened (such as someone holding their hand, gentle company, favourite music playing, the dog or cat on the end of the bed); having a pleasing environment helps enormously in the final stages.”
A death plan can really help bring the above into reality. The team at End of Life Doula UK spoke to us about what a great benefit a death plan can be: “We will all die. That is certain. When and how we will die is uncertain. We could die from a terminal illness, frailty, old age or it could be because of a sudden and unexpected event such as a cardiac arrest, an accident. If we have made a plan for how we would want our death and dying to be then research has shown we are more likely to get what we want – where we die, who we would like to care for us, how we would like to be cared for, treatments we would want and not want, how we would want our funeral to be. As well as there being a greater likelihood of our wishes and preferences being respected, we also relieve those we have of having to make difficult decisions.”
Ideas for a death plan
- Where you want to die
- Who you want with you when you die
- What you want to hear, such as music
- What you want to smell
- What you want to taste, such as final meals
- What treatments you desire
By setting out requests like this in a document in consultation with doctors, carers, and family members, those who are nearing the end of life can do everything they can to die well, making the event easier to bare.
You can find a full death plan on the Final Choices website.
Tips for planning for your death
- Reach out to others
- Think about how you would like to be remembered
- Address legal and financial matters
- Consider organ donation
- Plan your funeral
- Make a death plan
Planning for the end of your life is not easy but it is a necessary step to ensure that everything and everyone in your life is taken care, as well as bringing you peace before the end.
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