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Dealing With Your Own Imminent Death - Preparations and Activities

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Journaling/Life Review/Making Amends

hand writing on paperOnce you have come to accept your upcoming death, you may want to begin a life review or journaling process in order to get your thoughts out on paper or to share your history with family for future generations. You may also wish to repair broken relationships or resolve previous conflicts. This process may include contacting people that you have hurt in some way, whether by words or actions. You may feel the need to resolve issues, as a way of tying up "loose ends." Many dying people feel that it is time to put affairs in order and enjoy relationships during the time that is remaining.

Saying Goodbyes

In addition to repairing broken relationships or making amends, it is also a time to say goodbye to family members and friends. This can be done verbally or by writing special letters to be opened after your death has occurred. This period often involves people gathering in larger groups and celebrating your life. Family and friends that live outside of the area may also try to make final visits to see you, to share what your relationship has meant to them over the years, and/or offer support and help during your time of dying.

Keeping Active

Dying is also a time to continue daily activities (as much as possible) and live each day to the fullest, rather than becoming withdrawn and isolated. You may have a list of things that you wish to do before death occurs, including traveling to special places, spending time with family and friends, reading, etc. Even though death is imminent, you can work to keep active in mind and body and enjoy the days that you have remaining.

Keeping active does not necessarily mean being with others constantly. It is important to remember that you have the right to be alone and process your thoughts and emotions privately. Family and friends may want to be with you constantly and offer their support in order to distract you (and themselves) from what is coming. It is okay to say that you need to be alone if you desire or need some "down time."

It is also important for you to remember that during this time it's okay (and quite normal) for you to want to:

  • Be assertive in communicating with health care providers and family/friends
  • Ask for more pain medication (or other medicines that keep you comfortable)
  • Watch television (even if it's "trashy" tv)
  • Ask for a particular food or drink (even if it's unhealthy or unusual)
  • Take a nap
  • Laugh or be silly
  • Cry
  • Be afraid
  • Scream/Shout
  • Do nothing for a while
  • Do what feels right to you, even if it doesn't make sense to others