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End-of-life planning makes it easier to say goodbye

January 22, 2011

About the Authors

photo of Barbara Okun, PhD

Barbara Okun, PhD, Contributor

Barbara Okun, PhD, is a professor of counseling psychology at Northeastern University, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a clinical psychologist and family therapist. See Full Bio
View all posts by Barbara Okun, PhD
photo of Joseph Nowinski, PhD

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, Contributor

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, is a nationally known clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience working with individuals and families. With psychologist Barbara Okun, he wrote Saying Goodbye: How Families Can Find Renewal Through Loss; … See Full Bio
View all posts by Joseph Nowinski, PhD


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Ralph Kennedy
December 4, 2011

I went and spoke with Mr. Skidd following his posting and I found him to be focused on the bottom line (money) than my family’s well being.

I personally will not be using his funeral home. Very disappointed.

I thought the whole idea was to speak about pre arranging. Not how much my family has in the bank accounts. Very invasive.

December 3, 2011

This was a lovely post. Our family have had 10 losses in the last 8 years and some just young members. My young Grandsons have become aware of death at a young age. But in saying that they have had time to spend with some of the family that had warning of their death which we are all grateful for.

Bill Skidd
October 21, 2011

I can certainly vouch that families that preplan funerals seem to be more at peace when the time comes. Most of us, (myself included), don’t like to dwell on our own mortality and put off funeral planning though we know it will be harder to do at an emotional time.

Clarifying final wishes is the most important part of funeral planning. I try to encourage the families of the elderly and infirm to at least pause and discuss amongst themselves what they would like to do. The discussion also raises the opportunity to really connect with the person and often leads to learning new things about them.

A distant second goal of funeral planning is pre-funding funeral costs. Here I often find it difficult to make the case for tying up funds that could be used on the person while they are alive. The one exception is in the case where the person is to go onto government assistance. In that situation, (in Connecticut), you can set aside funds for a funeral that would otherwise be consumed by the government as part of the costs of their care. In these “use it or lose it” situations, it is vital that the family establish and fund a funeral plan before the funds are gone. The legalese of elder law can sometimes be baffling. I love hosting a pre-planning discussion and cutting through the confusion for people. Once the concern and confusion has been lifted, the conversation usually blossoms into a happy and creative discussion about how to celebrate a life lived.

Bill Skidd
Funeral Director/Certified Preplanning Consultant
Collins Funeral Home Norwalk CT

Funeral Directors London
May 26, 2011

Its so important saying your goodbyes. Your last words can really change people and will stick with them for the rest of their life. I did one funeral of a lady and she had made videos of her self to be played at her funeral in the church. It was so moving for everyone. This was really thinking about saying her goodbyes in great detail through her terminal illness.
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Aphys Fade
February 25, 2011

I was very encouraged to find this site.I want to thank you for this special read.Most times, we are too scared to think about death, not to talking about dying. I definitely savored every little bit of the post and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff that you will post.

Julie Rosen
January 25, 2011

Thanks for a terrific post–I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, as I recently blogged, the importance of advance care planning has gotten lost in the political debate:

Julie Rosen
Executive Director
The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare

Jacqueline Zimmer Jones
January 23, 2011

“Too many people miss the opportunity to say goodbye because they avoid what feels like a scary or taboo topic.” In fact 7 out of 10 don’t put plans in place for their deaths or even vital emergencies. A recent contribution to the effort of getting people to actually plan, surfaced in the form of LeaveLight, an award winning book that is both, practical and spiritual. Spiritual by way of employing forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, and surrender. Beyond the practical forms, which can be downloaded, it offers motivational tools, help with talking to loved ones, and support in leaving more than material goods. When my father was dying, my brother and I found ourselves engaged in a day-to-day debate with 51 other people about his wishes. In the end, we were able to allow him to die as we knew he wished…five days later. This book gave me the words to engage in a conversation with my daughters about what THEY wanted for themselves should anything happen to them. I didn’t want to find myself in a situation where their partners and I would be on opposite sides of my daughter’s wishes. They both have since had conversations with their partners and are preparing advance directives and this book is the source of their ongoing planning.

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