10 Ways to Leave This World More Peacefully

In my previous post I suggested (gently and with music) people take time out of their lives to talk about death. Why? Because it’s the one thing we all have in common and yet, we’re doing it pretty poorly. We don’t talk about death because we’re afraid it might happen. Newsflash: It’s going to happen. We are all going to go sometime. If you talk about it you’re going to die, and if you don’t talk about it, you’re going to die. But if you discuss it your death could be easier for you and for everyone you love who cares about you.

Think this isn’t going to be a problem in your family? Think again. It’s a problem in way more families than you think. Even in the ones who least expect it. Death brings out the worst in people. While the battles are often motivated by money, greed isn’t the only motivator. We love our parents and we want to hold onto them so some folks go to battle over sentimental items or power. We battle trying to prove “Mom always loved me best.” Or, “I really was the best child Dad raised.” We battle over who gets the pin Grandma wore to her wedding or who gets to keep the watch Dad got when he retired. (Yeah, that used to happen!) If you doubt my suggestion about how big a problem these battles are, Google Family Inheritance Battles and How to Avoid Them. Heads up, though. You’ll get 13,100,000 hits. More than 13 million suggestions for staving off what might be ahead.

I don’t have 13 million suggestions, just 10, but if you follow any of them, you’re likely to avoid having to read through the 13 million suggestions later.

1. Talk about your death with your adult children and talk the death of your parents with your parents. Discuss what you believe about the end of life and how it should be handled. Ask them what they believe. Air this topic out, don’t shroud it in darkness. Letting light in by simply bringing up the topic over  family dinner will make it way more palatable.

2. If someone “Pooh Poohs” you and says, “Let’s change the subject, this is too depressing or too morbid,” simply respond gently. “I don’t think it’s morbid at all. It’s just a reality we all have to face and won’t it be a lot easier if we face it together?” Because the truth is, it will be easier to handle end of life together.

3. Have a will. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to a more peaceful transition. If you are reading this blog, you’re probably an adult. If you don’t have a will, you have no way of knowing what will happen to the things you care about after you die. In some states if you die without a will the things you own and the money you have may go to your state. No one wants that! (Except maybe your governor) Writing a will may be done best with an attorney but if that doesn’t work for you don’t worry. There are will templates on the Internet. There are free options and a few you have to pay to download. Look at a few, choose one you like and fill it in as needed. State who gets what after you die and don’t leave anything to chance. Then make a few copies and sign each in front of two witnesses. Keep a copy for your records, maybe even two copies, and give the others to a few key people you trust.

4. Talk about love. Ultimately most of the family battles over money are really over love. If you air your feelings openly while you’re alive, if you resolve conflicts while you’re alive, you won’t have your heirs battling over your grave.

5. Be open about the reality of your plans. If you do have a will, let your family know what you’ve included in it. It’s best if you don’t use your will to deliver any sort of message you should have delivered while you were still breathing.

6. There’s a saying, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.” It’s so true in terms of family battles. You might think you have the perfect family and so you don’t have to worry about anyone fighting over anything. I’m happy for you if you feel that way and I hope for your sake you’re right. But, you know what? You’re probably wrong. Even in families where everyone feels close it’s hard to predict who will start fighting when a loved one is sick and/or dying and everyone is stressed out. So, if you do have a loving family, protect it by doing what needs to be done in advance to avoid battles later… even if you’re sure your family is immune to such rifts. They’re not. No family is.

7. Pick a point person, give someone what’s known as “Power of Attorney.” What that means is that you are allowing someone to act with your full range of power over your money and your life, acting as your agent as if they were you. You choose this person to make decisions for you if and when you can’t make them anymore. Choose someone you trust with your life, because they literally will be running your life. Don’t choose two people because they would then have to agree on every point and that will be very difficult for any two people to do. You can choose one person and a back up person but not two to serve together. Power of Attorney is only put into place while you are alive and can’t function. Once you are dead the executor of your will takes over in decision-making capacity. And, yes, the same person can serve in both ways if you want that. You can also break up Power of Attorney and choose one person to make financial decisions and one person to make health decisions if you prefer.

8. Consider how you want to die. Do you want to be kept alive at all costs? Do you want to be hooked up to machines which may breathe for you and/or feed you? Do you want to be kept alive beyond the time you can fully function? Do you want heroic measures done to save you despite how infirm you may be? Okay, these are ghastly things to think about. I get that. But you know what’s more ghastly? It’s forcing your loved ones to make these choices for you without knowing for sure what you would have preferred because you never said so.

9. Let superstitions go. Cannot stress strongly enough what a waste of time these distractions are. You can’t “luck” your way out of dying.

10. Seek help. If you can at all afford to do so, check with an attorney in drawing up these legal papers. It may cost a bit but that money might be very well spent if it helps your family avoid problems later.

I hope you take this matter seriously and yet not think of it as too sad. Death is just a part of life and it doesn’t have to be disastrous. If you have any suggestions to add you think might help folks going through some difficulties with this, please comment here and share. And feel free to send this post along to everyone you’ve ever met in your life, especially if you’re related to them!

Be the beacon of light that helps your family find its way to peace. They’ll thank you for it . (Okay, they probably won’t but you’ll know you did the right thing!)IMG_2860

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37 thoughts on “10 Ways to Leave This World More Peacefully

  1. I can’t tell you how I wish you’d written this post about a year ago, Debby.

    My step-father died just before Easter. My mother is now in a nursing home. She has dementia. He never got around to arranging a Power Attorney, so I’m now having to sort it all out, which means going to court! He told me he was doing it, but he never did. I guess by looking after my mother full-time, time was not on his side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My heart hurts for you, Hugh. But it’s so hard to know or consider any of this before it impacts our lives directly. People ask me why I wrote such a “scandalous” book about my family and the horrible way we all dealt with the deaths of our parents. People like you are exactly the reason. Someone had to shine a light on the problems so that everyone doesn’t have to suffer. We were in court 3 times and are likely going to have to go again in the estate of my poor mother-in-law who suffered a nightmare of a last year of life thanks to lack of planning and some despicable people. If anyone can learn from my cautionary tale, it’ll be worth the backlash of publishing the “tale.” Good luck with what lies ahead for you. I hope your mother’s remaining time is peaceful.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so right. It’s a tough topic but one all of us will benefit from talking about. No one should make this personal decisions for another person. We each have the right to choose the way we want to leave this world, or at least we should! Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment. I really appreciate it.

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  2. Excellent advice, and timely for so many of us. I have an 85 yr. old Mother in Law who might just believe she’s immortal. She lost her husband last year, and is now in Independent Living, but has her adult children in disarray over so many issues and cannot make any decisions. It is frustrating to watch unfold. Thanks for the post. Van

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    1. I so know what you are going through. I’m glad your mil is doing well but distressed to hear about the family issues, but OMG, I know those only too well. Hell, I wrote a whole book about it and could probably have written 2 more! If you feel comfortable, maybe choose a family member or two to share this post with. It could help and likely won’t hurt!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent reminder. My husband and I are planning to do our wills this year. My mom has no will and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010. Luckily, we did all the paperwork – Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will — before she went into a nursing home and I set up a funeral fund for her since she is indigent. I feel much more at peace knowing that she has been provided for.

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  4. Very good advice. My Dad passed away this January and it got me thinking. Each case has its own complications (in mine it isn’t the many members of the family as there aren’t, but we live in different countries and how wills work in different places is different so…) Must investigate further, but thanks for reminding me I need to think about this.

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    1. That’s an excellent point. I never considered the particular issues of families being in different countries with different laws, etc. But nowadays with families being quite global, that matters a great deal. Thanks!

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  5. Excellent post Deb on stuff nobody ever really wants to talk or think about, but should be done. Ironically, I just finished the part where your dad passed in your book. 😦

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  6. That’s funny. It was a poignant time and one from which I learned a lot. My dad died with a great deal of dignity in the manner he chose, at peace at my home. He was pretty clear about what he wanted and that helped. He was a guy of few words but when he really wanted something (which was not often at all) he made it clear and that helped me a lot. Thanks for continuing to read! 🙂

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  7. Yes, so many problems could be reduced if we talked to our loved ones honestly before it’s too late. Sometimes pain is held for such a long time because possibly a person feels guilt because he or she feels that he didn’t express his love for his family member/friend who has died. But there is such a taboo about talking about death isn’t there? Still your post has really got me thinking, thanks for sharing with us.

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  8. I realize how impressed I was to find out that the Tibetans have a Book of Dead – a “manual” of sorts, to help the departing in their journey to the afterlife. Far from being a taboo, this is a subject freely discussed. Your post reminded me of that healthy attitude… 🙂

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  9. Thank you for these points. Having been through family conflict at my mother’s death, I’ve tried to follow your point. But I refuse to earmark possessions. My mother was so attached to hers that she put an inheritance sticker under each one—then kept changing the stickers. If you want the Mexican doodad to go to someone, give it to them before you die.

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    1. I totally understand. Funny, my aunt did the same thing — put stickers on all of her “treasures.” Didn’t make them any prettier! (She had “interesting” taste in trinkets.) But I get your point. Recently I gave my daughters lots of things I had which I thought they’d enjoy having while I was still alive. I think it freaked them out a bit, they kept asking if there were anything wrong with me, but I assured them I’m here for the duration, just wanting to divest myself of some of my treasures.

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