True or False?
“I’m not sick. I have plenty of time to do my emotional estate planning.”
While it is never too late to start emotional estate planning, it is also never too early.
Emotional estate planning should not be reserved for those suffering a terminal or chronic illness who are nearing death.
Just think back on the deaths you have experienced. How many were unexpected or were the result of a rapid decline in health?
As I reflect back on the many deaths of family and friends over my lifetime not one of them did much, if any, emotional estate planning and with the exception of my grandmother and aunt, all were rather swift and unexpected deaths.
My father succumbed to a brain aneurysm at age 46. My uncle, to an aortic aneurysm, also in his 40s. My aunt died in a car crash in her 30s. My mother died over the course of one week at the age of 74 of chemotherapy poisoning, just six months after a breast cancer diagnosis. My friend’s husband died almost instantly of a heart attack in his 50s. My friend died just a few months after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in her 40s. My ex-husband, a non-smoker, died at age 56, six months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. While he underwent chemotherapy he developed a rare secondary cancer that spread to his brain.
This is just a sample taken from my own life, but out of eleven deaths only three were a natural result of a long well lived life. Not much time or opportunity for getting affairs in order, much less for crafting last words, goodbyes or making last memories in the last month of their lives.
My mother and my godmother were the only ones who really did any emotional estate planning and that wasn’t all that much, honestly.
My goal is to prevent as much emotional, spiritual and suffering as possible. I know how much suffering emotional estate planning can relieve. Unfortunately, most people still believe they will ‘know’ when their time is ‘about to come’ and have time to prepare.
Here’s something no one seems to remember to mention…
When you’ve received a diagnosis with a terminal prognosis, the life expectancy they give you is not a guarantee.
A prognosis is not a contract.
We’ve all heard those wonderful stories of someone being given six months to live and they went on for another five years. Those are exceptional. Emphasis on ‘exception’. The stories that are not passed along but much more common, are the ones who are given three months and only get three days.
Most importantly though, life expectancy and prognosis refers only to the state of being physically alive. It does not indicate the quality of that life. For instance, one may be given six months to live, however the last two months may be in an altered cognitive state at best, and unresponsive at worst.
The benefit of emotional estate planning is the opportunity to provide your emotional support to your loved ones before, during and even after you’re death.
How many times have you said ‘I wish I had one more…’, after you’ve lost a loved one? One more story. One more “I love you.” One more something? Emotional estate planning enables you the opportunity to set up these sorts of bonus ‘one mores’ by prompting you to make choices, take action and express yourself.
There is so much benefit to your bereaved when you do emotional estate planning, however you are the one who benefits the most!
By accepting our mortality, before it is knocking on our door, we can deepen our experiences of life, gain perspective and even change the trajectory of our lives. We gain insights not otherwise available to us when we are living in denial.
It puts things into perspective and offers us the opportunity to forgive, make amends and even repair damaged relationships. More importantly, it enhances relationships that are already awesome by strengthening our bonds in sharing profound thoughts and fears.
Taking the opportunity at any age to acknowledge death as a constant companion only brings more depth to our living. As we age however, emotional estate planning becomes increasingly necessary because death falls more into our direct line of sight rather than in our peripheral vision.
Ok, great, you now understand how important it is to do emotional estate planning, so now what?
You could begin by scouring the internet for end of life planners.
Some resources are simply books of checklists and blank lines to record where a document can be found. Others have thought provoking topics to reflect on.
A checklist is fine for grocery shopping. It’s great a tool for not overlooking something. Thought provoking topics are better. They prompt you to dig deeper than the checklist so that you are more prepared emotionally than if you simply filled out a checklist.
What neither of them have though is the availability to support you in processing the emotions that come up when you are doing this kind of planning.
And the feels are real, my friends.
There are feelings of failure, disappointment, worry and fear just to name a few. There are also feelings of overwhelming gratitude, appreciation and love. What do you do with all that? How do you process it and not allow it to overpower you? How do you transform those feelings into actions and gifts that will ease the grief of you and your loved ones?
By doing it with an experienced guide.
Initial Inventory Planning Session
That’s all it takes to get a good portion of the basics of the necessary planning completed. Included is your copy of the Healing Rites of Passage End of Life Planner. This planner is not available anywhere else.
The session will quickly identify where you are lacking in legal, financial, social, medical and emotional preparation as well as facilitate and complete some parts of your plan.
The session serves two purposes: 1) To get the basics of emotional estate planning completed. That’s self explanatory. At the end of the 90 mins you will have your advanced directives outlined at the very least.
At most you will have had a deep conversation outlining exactly your intentions for the end of your life care, whenever it should happen to be. You will have laid the first steps to making your family’s job of memorial planning easier.
…and the second goal…
2) To build a relationship with your end of life specialist. This is less obvious. When you build a relationship with an end of life specialist by initiating your emotional estate planning, that specialist becomes an intimate part of your life. That relationship can then be drawn upon down the road when you are in crisis. Because when you are in crisis you are automatically surrounded by professional strangers (or strange professionals, I suppose).
How about a familiar professional with all the experience necessary to help you sort out the jargon and double speak? How about a familiar professional who can remind you of the things that you decided were important when you weren’t under duress? How about a familiar professional who can remind you of those things to relieve your panic? How about a familiar professional who can ‘be the strong one’ while you and your family have that much needed break down?
It starts with 90 minutes, but lasts the rest of your life.
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