The Good Death: Planning Your Passing

We rarely give much thought to our own death until it is upon us. Sigmund Freud said that we are incapable of imagining our own death. Even though we know and can imagine someone else’s demise, we are convinced of our own immortality. As a result, we give little or no thought to how we would like our last days and moments to be. Or, for that matter, even what we need to do to ensure that our wishes will be carried out.

Psychology Today

The reality is that no matter who you talk to, a person wants to have a proverbial “good death.” For some, that might mean dying while sleeping. For others, it might mean dying awake but surrounded by the ones they love.

The reality is that you cannot specifically plan your death with precision. Yes, yes, some states do allow for an assisted death in certain circumstances. But that is not the intent of our discussion today. 

Rather, we are discussing the type of planning that needs to be undertaken in order to have the kind of passing from this life that you desire – understanding that you may not have control over the final moments of your life for a whole host of other reasons.

In the end, the mere fact that you cannot be absolutely certain how your life will end doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for how you’d like that end to be play out.

There are 8 steps you need to take to best ensure a good death when that time does come:

  • Avoid the hallway huddle
  • Have two death-related instruments in place
  • Cover your estate planning essentials
  • Know when to make your good death arrangements
  • Share your wishes and desires with people close to you
  • Deal with your digital life
  • Be creative about your end
  • Preplan your funeral or memorial service – or whatever

Avoid the Hallway Huddle

The ultimate objective of the steps set forth in this article is to avoid what fairly can be called the hallway huddle. The hallway huddle is a group of family or friends or a combination of both gathered outside a patient room, the ICU, or even the emergency department of a hospital trying to figure out what to do because a loved one is lying a few feet away dying. Loved ones are scrambling about trying to figure out what a dying person would like to see happen as his or her life winds down is not the mark of a good death.

Have Two Death-Related Instruments in Place

There are a paid of legal instruments that you need to have in place in advance of the time you may need them. These two documents can prove invaluable to you having a good death in certain situations:

  • First, you need an advanced medical directive (sometimes called a living will). This is a legal instrument that delineates what you do and do not want to have happen in regard to extraordinary medical care and treatment. 
  • Second, you need a durable power of attorney for healthcare (sometimes called a medical power of attorney). This instrument designates the person you want to make medical decisions for you should you not be able to do so yourself. A focus of that task is to ensure your medical directives are carried out when you are in no position to enforce them yourself. 

Cover Your Estate Planning

You place yourself in a better position to have a good death if you have done appropriate estate planning in advance of your final days. In some ways, nothing is grimmer than having to work out your estate plan when you only have days or even hours left. Moreover, at the end, you may not have the necessary mental capacity to take on this task. 

Know When to Make Your Good Death Arrangements

If you are reading this article today and if you have not made arrangement for the matters discussed in this article … when you get done reading this article, get to work addressing these matters. The reality is that you really are never too young as an adult to begin thinking about matters surrounding the end of your life. Nothing in live requires a level proactivity than does planning for matters pertaining to your death. 

Share Your Wishes and Desires With People Close to You

Of course, estate planning needs to involve documents in writing that are signed in a certain manner. The same holds true for your advanced medical directive and your power of attorney for healthcare. Other elements of your good death planning do not require such formalities. 

As you plan how you would like your final days to play out, if you have the chance to have at least some control over them, you need to let other people you trust and who care for you know of these plans. Certainly, putting these plans, thoughts, and ideas down on paper is a good start. But you need to give this information to at least one person (and perhaps to three – but don’t go overboard in this regard).

Deal With Your Digital Life

If you are like most people, you spend time in the digital world. This may include the use of Facebook, Instagram, or some other social media platform. 

You very likely use one or another of these platforms to share major life events. Ultimately, your own passing may be the penultimate series of posts made on your Facebook page (or at another social media platform).

You have the ability to designate a person to take over your Facebook account upon your death, for example. Your living page can be transformed into a memorial to you, with a designated person overseeing your page going forward.

Be Creative About Your End

Your last days are … yours. Therefore, you can be creative in regard to how you spend them. Of course, there may be some limitations in regard to where you can go at the end. But leading up to that very last stretch, you may have the ability to any number of things that you enjoy. 

Even when you are pretty much confined at the end, you can still be creative and enjoy the things that brought you joy in life. For example, if you have been a Christmas fan through the years – have the Christmas decorations brought out, including a decorated tree, and enjoy.

Preplan Your Funeral or Memorial Service – or Whatever

Finally, as part of planning for a good death, include planning for what happens when you pass on. Preplan your funeral, memorial service, or whatever it is you may want when your life on Earth has ended. You may want nothing really at all, and that is fully within your rights. With that said, bear in mind that funerals, memorial services, and the like are really more for the living than they are for the individual who has died.