Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tip #6 for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood

Have you had The Conversation?

Of course you've had lots of conversations, but this is one you may have avoided.  It's a conversation about one of the last taboo subjects in 21st century America.  Death--yours.

Yes, you probably have a will and an advanced directive and possibly a medical power of attorney, but have you ever sat down with your family and talked frankly about
how you want to be cared for at the end of your life?  What if you're unable to participate in decisions as death nears?  How will your loved ones know what your wishes are?  Will they make the decisions you would have chosen?  What if the time comes and your family members don't know...because you've never told them.

This was exactly the situation that Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman found herself in as her mother neared death and could no longer speak for herself.  She did her best for her mom but made it her mission that other families would not have to go through the uncertainty and confusion she did.  She started The Conversation Project to encourage older...and even younger...people to call their family members together to talk about end-of-life issues.  You can find more information about the project at

I had my family meeting before Goodman's project got underway, using The Five Wishes, available from and I think it's the better of the two.  You can download a copy of The Five Wishes at their website.  You fill out the form, answering the 5 questions about how you want to be treated as death approaches..  You discuss this with your loved ones.  Then they fill out the same forms, answering the questions as they understand your wishes.  Finally you go over their responses together to be certain they reflect yours.  If not, further discussion is warranted.  Each of you keeps a copy of the 5 Wishes forms so all of you are on the same page "when the time comes."

I did the 5 Wishes discussion with my two adult children.  When I first suggested it, they said, "Eww, we don't want to talk about that.  I said, "Well, my birthday is coming up and that's what I want for a present."  So they showed up, reluctantly, one Sunday morning, we had "the discussion" and afterward my daughter said, "That wasn't as bad as I expected."

I think these talks are among the most important you will have in your lifetime.  If you have elderly parents, you can initiate the discussion.  If you're the parent/grandparent, then you suggest it.  Don't do it at the spur of the moment.  Plan a time when you can all be together and when no one feels rushed.  You can't give yourself or your parent a better gift.

Take care, and stop by next Thursday for Tip#7.


Susan Kane said... [Reply to comment]

My own adult children would back away emotionally and then talk about me in secret. (mom is morbid today)

I will try it soon.

thelmaz said... [Reply to comment]

Please do try it. My kids couldn't turn me down because it was for my birthday. Good luck


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