“My mother sadly died of brain cancer two years ago, but it was peaceful, dignified and free of unwanted hospital admissions or medical interventions because she had made her wishes clear to us and to her doctors soon after her diagnosis. When a loved one has an advance care plan it allows you to support the voice of someone who is dying, and it means their death, while still very sad, is less of a haunting. It is a sort of paradox; you are still grieving of course, but you also feel you gave them a gift by respecting who they were as a person and what they wanted at the end. I hope we can do the same for my dad when the time comes.”
How planning can support the grieving process
This week is National Grief Awareness week, an annual event planned by the lovely folk at @GoodGriefTrust. There’s no escaping grief when a loved one dies and through our work at Compassion in Dying we know that the dying experience of a loved one is inextricably linked to the grieving experience. Our busy information line supports callers to plan ahead for their end of life, but sadly we also hear lots of stories about the effect difficult end-of-life experiences have on those left behind.
When we ask people what is most important to them at the end of life, most of the responses are centred around family. We also know that when people have conversations about their end-of-life choices, and crucially record these in a legally binding way, family members are given much needed clarity about what you want, and can allow them to advocate for you if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.
Sadly, grieving is never going to be an easy process. However, we know based on calls to our information line, that there is a link between difficult end-of-life experiences and a more complicated grief process. The additional anguish people face when questioning what their loved one wanted at the end of life, along with conflicting views and inter-family disputes, are far more likely when there is no end-of-life planning in place.
In 2010 the BMJ reported findings from a study that shows family members whose deceased loved one had completed an Advance Care Plan had fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.
Esther Ramsey-Jones is a Psychotherapist and a mother of two. She kindly shared her story with us:
Of course, planning ahead can help the grieving process, but it can’t make it go away. Christmas can be an especially tough time of the year for those who are suffering a bereavement, and we wanted to make you aware of some amazing organisations that can give you support, advice and guidance:
- @thelossproject are doing a free ‘Season’s Griefings’ advent calendar to give you a daily dose of love, and an opportunity to think about your grief in different ways
- @goodgrieftrust have a sudden bereavement helpline and are open Monday-Friday on 0800 2600 400
- @crusesupport have a live chat option, if you don’t feel like talking on the phone
Get in touch today
We can support you to make your future care and treatment wishes known for free. Contact us:
- call our information line on 0800 999 2434 (Monday to Friday 11am-4pm)
- email us at email@example.com