[W]hile our culture continually challenges men to engage more in “traditionally female” activities at home, our cultural expectations of their behavior are not often in sync with these notions, especially when it comes to expressing feelings and emotions.
Our society expects men to avoid expressing feelings, to endure stress without giving up and to be able to bear pain. We do not expect to see men openly cry, to express loneliness, sadness or depression or to demonstrate other emotions.
When it comes to dealing with the death of a loved one, men often suppress their grief in light of cultural expectations that they remain strong and in control. But suppressing sadness over a loss can have a long-lasting, even permanent, negative impact on a man’s emotional health. Left buried, unresolved grief can cause prolonged turmoil, bitterness, family problems and ill health.
Hospice of Michigan understands men’s unique needs and offers grief support to help them express and find healthy ways to deal with their feelings.
It starts with an understanding of grieving style. According to Dr. Kenneth J. Doka, senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America, grieving is not based on gender, but on style. Doka believes there are three types of grievers. Intuitive grievers talk about, and show, their emotions. Instrumental grievers think through their grief and are “do-ers.” Blended grievers are a combination of both grieving styles.
Additionally, some people are more private about showing their emotions. Hospice of Michigan’s grief support groups address the fact that not all men are comfortable talking to other men about their grief.
Gender stereotypes also influence how grief counselors help men process their grief according to personality labels society assigns:
A man who grew up believing “boys don’t cry” learns that grief does not lessen him as a man
A “competitive” man who always strives for the best understands that while he can’t “beat” death, he can redirect his fight in beneficial ways
A “protective” man who feels responsible for his family and friends focuses on the blessing of what he was able to do for his loved one
A “provider” who immersed himself in work to ensure his family’s security receives coping skills to navigate the natural difficulties in returning to the workplace
A “problem solver” who fixes everything around the house resolves the guilt he feels for not preventing death
A “controller” who likes to be in charge of everything realizes grief is unpredictable and, while he can’t control his emotional response, he can channel his behavioral response in positive ways
A “self-sufficient” man who was raised to be independent learns that letting his down his guard and sharing feelings with others is actually a sign of courage
Grief counselors help men process grief by working through their shock, pain and anxiety; emotional, social and physical difficulties and feelings of guilt. Men are encouraged to find new goals and directions in restructuring their lives.
“There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to effectively deal with grief,” Karen Monts, practice manager, counseling services for Hospice of Michigan, said. “We all experience life from our own unique perspective. If our natural responses to circumstances conflict with society’s expectations of how we ‘should’ behave, dealing with the grief over losing a loved one can be especially difficult. For men who feel obliged to remain stoic because that’s what’s expected of them, their unresolved grief can lead to even bigger problems down the road. It’s important for everyone to freely express pain and sadness.”
[P]resident Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is a constitutional originalist who opposes all forms of assisted suicide and ruled twice against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate but has never ruled on abortion.
Trump announced the nomination of Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday night, kicking off what Democrats have said will be a contentious confirmation process to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is currently serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over six western states
The 49-year-old Gorsuch holds a Harvard law degree and a PhD in legal philosophy from Oxford.
In 2009, he authored “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he argues against the practice from both a moral and legal standpoint.
“It is an argument premised on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” Gorsuch wrote in the opening pages of the book.
Federal rulings on physician-assisted suicide have been limited. Most recently, a 2006 Supreme Court ruling continued to defer to the states on the matter. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled against prosecuting doctors who provide aid in dying but made no ruling on the broader legality. But its opponents are still hankering for a fight: In a November op-ed, Wisconsin’s deputy solicitor general urged another legal battle over the issue and a change in conservative legal tactics.
In Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, Gorsuch sided with the company in an initial circuit court ruling in 2013 as it sought a religious exemption to the mandate. The ensuing Supreme Court decision allowed privately owned for-profit companies to claim a religious objection to the mandate that they cover contraception for their employees.
In a later case also centered on the law’s contraception requirements, Gorsuch joined a dissent in a ruling that denied a motion by other opponents of the mandate claiming religious objections. The dissent blasted the majority for their “dangerous approach to religious liberty.”
With Trump’s recent executive order instructing federal agencies to “ease the burdens” of Obamacare, the contraception mandate could once again end up entangled in litigation.
On the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, however, Gorsuch’s appointment does not move the court in a different direction. Though he has never ruled on abortion before, Gorsuch is expected to vote as the deeply conservative Scalia did should the issue appear again before the justices.
The security of the 44-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling is among liberal groups’ chief concerns when it comes to Trump’s judicial nominees.
Trump said during the 2016 campaign that he is personally opposed to abortion, and that he would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade so that states could decide their positions on the issue individually.
Senate Republicans now face a procedural decision if Democrats try to block Gorsuch’s confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can employ the so-called “nuclear option” — which would allow Trump’s nominee to pass via simple majority rather than the usual 60-vote margin. But McConnell has in the past sounded reluctant to change the chamber’s rules.
Many Democrats, incensed that Senate Republicans never gave former Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing or vote after his nomination in March 2016, vowed to oppose Trump’s nominee even before Gorsuch was announced. It remains to be seen, however, if enough Democrats will unite to stop his nomination without a change in Senate rules.
When President George W. Bush appointed Gorsuch in 2006 to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he was confirmed by the Senate with a voice vote.
[I]t does not matter if you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender: we are all human beings who have the capability to love and be loved. From the moment we are born, we develop bonds and attachments to people, places, and even things. When that bond is separated and detached, especially because of death, we experience grief and loss.
Grief is an intense emotional and psychological suffering related to any type of loss we may experience. Depending on the bond and the relationship, grief can last a few days or several months. Yet for those who have experienced a significant death, grief can last up to two years. Grief does not just involve the emotional but also the physical. The feelings we experience are neither right nor wrong; they just are.
It can be difficult for us in the GLBT community when a partner/spouse dies or even when we go through a serious break up after being together for a long period. Still in our society there are those who will never accept same-sex relationships or marriage or the fact that two people of the same sex can love just as much as a heterosexual couple. I can remember running a support group for men in San Diego whose partners had died, and some of these men had been in long-term relationships and yet had no legal rights over their partners at the time of death. The family of one of the deceased came and took the body and never recognized the two of them as a couple. The surviving partner never had a chance to say goodbye because in many states the next of kin has the legal rights. That is why it is so very important that couples in the GLBT community have the legal papers that will honor the wishes of the couple before a serious illness or death, because you may not have any rights. Luckily, our society is changing and becoming more open, accepting, and acknowledging of same-sex relationships. Love is love.
It also may be difficult for a partner to talk about their loss with family, friends, and coworkers if they are not out. The lack of support leaves those to grieve in what feels like solitary confinement, which could lead to a greater isolation and a deeper depression.
When dealing with a death or a serious break up, we will experience a wide range of emotions and physical reactions. We may experience shock, denial, depression, anger, guilt, abandonment, insomnia, lack of energy, memory problems, confusion, concentration difficulties, forgetfulness, social withdrawal, chest pains, panic attacks, and headaches as well as other symptoms. These are normal reactions. For some, the emotional pain may become so intense that they will find ways to mask their feelings with increased alcohol or drug use or by taking various unhealthy risks because they may feel they have nothing else to live for. Men, in particular, have a difficult time doing their grief work because of what they have been taught over the years: “be strong,” “it’s finished so move on,” “men don’t cry,” or “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” Over the years, the lack of understanding feelings, expressing them, and dealing with various losses such as coming to terms with sexuality, divorce, abuse, poor self-esteem as well as other losses has led to substance abuse, abusive relationships and suicide. Men must learn to find healthy ways to express feelings and not be embarrassed about them. Some members of the GLBT community may not have the love and support they need in coping and adjusting to death.
For many, the funeral is the easy part. It is the weeks and months after it when reality sets in and we become more aware of the void in our lives. We know in our heads that our loved ones have died, yet our hearts do not want to believe or accept it. As you begin the mourning process, you need to understand that not only are you experiencing grief, but you are also going through a period of stress and adjustment as you begin to make changes in your life now as a single person.
It is important as you begin the mourning process to be open and honest about what has happened and to accept the fact that your loved one has died. Once you can accept and move from your head to your heart, you can begin to heal. As you move through the process, you will feel like you’re on an out-of-control roller coaster ride, especially around birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. For many, the sixth month often becomes more difficult as reality really sets in. We will experience triggers of sights, smells, sounds — especially music — that will turn a good moment to a bad moment in a second. Depending on the type of death, there may be more heightened feelings such as anger and guilt. It is okay to be angry since we may feel cheated or that we did not have enough time with our loved ones. Guilt is where we say, “If only…” “could have…” “should have…” It is more important that we come to an understanding of our guilt, whether it be real or imaginary. In sudden deaths, there may be unfinished business in the relationship or intense guilt that we may need to get past to truly accept reality. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time.
At some point, it is Important to begin letting go to heal and find a new purpose. Our grief is not about the person dying as it is more about the loss of the relationship: someone to hold, someone to talk and share each day with, someone to cuddle and hold hands with. You will grieve the loss of dreams and a future with your love. You might also experience the loss of identity, especially if you were in a long-term relationship. In other words, “who am I?“ becomes very unclear. It is crucial that we not rush or deny our grief. For some of us, we may find that older unresolved losses from our past come to the forefront.
The following are some helpful hints for dealing with loss: recognize it, you are not alone, give yourself time to heal, keep decision-making to a minimum, beware of being on the rebound, don’t rush into a new relationship, set goals, keep a journal, drink plenty of water and eat well. And know that you will survive.
As you grieve, it is important if you have children to allow them to be open and honest about their feelings and take time to share stories and memories. If the kids are younger, put together a memory box with personal items and photos. Depending on the age of a child, be as open and honest about the death, yet do not overwhelm him or her. Plus, never tell a child something that may need to be undone later. In other words, never lie to a child about the cause of death. Allow the child to participate fully in the funeral, no matter what age he or she may be.
As you grieve the death of your loved one, it may be important to find a support group of others who are experiencing the same things. This may be a difficult task since many of the groups out there are mostly made up of older individuals who have been married for many years. These people may have trouble understanding a same-sex relationship and may not be respectful of your mourning. Otherwise, you might find that you are comfortable sharing your grievances with close friends and family.
If you are reading this and know someone who has experienced the death of a partner/spouse, here are a few tips on how you can help that person cope and adjust: give them your physical presence, just be there. Do rather than ask. Most people who are grieving do not like to ask for help. Keep the subject on them, this is not a time about you. Do not rush the person through their grief or try to find them a new relationship. Never minimize a person’s loss. Be with them for the long haul because for some this may be a long process.
[R]eggie and Gloria Weiss love fat, vine-ripened tomatoes; healthy, homegrown asparagus; and good, wormy soil.
They prefer dirt-covered garden gloves to jewelry, mulch their food scraps, conserve water and are partial to a good natural fertilizer – especially, Gloria said, the kind goats make.With reverence for the environment, and appreciation for these simple things in life, the Weisses have made a decision to keep things simple in death.
The Spring Township couple have pre-arranged a green or natural burial.They are among a growing number of Americans who, out of what the National Funeral Directors Association calls “a deepening eco-consciousness,” have abandoned the modern American way of death in which the departed, nattily-clad and chemically preserved, are placed in expensive hardwood or shimmering steel coffins; lowered into one-ton reinforced concrete burial vaults; and, after the clods fall, are memorialized with massive granite or marble headstones.
More adults interested
Natural, or green, burials honor the rituals that are important to people, but without glitzy, synthetic trappings associated with modern funerals.
They are a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact, according to the Green Burial Council based in Ojai, Calif.A 2015 study by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council showed 64 percent of adults 40 and older said they would be interested in green funeral options, compared with 43 percent in 2010.The funeral and burial industry is starting to take notice.Last summer, Gethsemane, a Catholic cemetery in Muhlenberg Township, became the first cemetery in Berks to offer a dedicated green burial section. That means no metal. No embalming fluid. No burial vault. No ashes.About an hour northeast of Reading, Green Meadow at Fountain Hill, in Salisbury Township, became Lehigh County’s first green cemetery when, in 2011, it dedicated a half acre of its 13 total acres to green burials.An hour west or Reading, Paxtang Cemetery in Paxtang Borough near Harrisburg reserved 12 of its 34 acres for green burials, and even had it zoned conservation to prevent future development.An hour southeast of Reading, West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion Township was a regional pioneer in the green movement when it set aside an acre for green burials in 2008.
Kuhn Funeral Home in West Reading, and Milkins Giles in Muhlenberg Township, stock caskets made of woven bamboo along with their traditional casket of steel and wood. Most funeral homes can easily attain and offer eco-friendly caskets to families, and families can purchase them directly from manufacturers.
Don Byrne, a native of Annville, Lebanon County, lives in Chatham, N.C., where he owns and operates Piedmont Pine Coffins. Using only non-power hand tools, Byrne makes each coffin with tongue-and-groove planks and dove-tail corners. Though his coffins are not used exclusively for green burials, he said the green movement has contributed to his workload.”They find that the simplicity of a pine matches something in the life or personality of their loved one,” Byrne said.His coffins, each requiring about 25 hours of labor, sell for about $1,800. Piedmont Pine Coffins is one of about 400 Green Burial Council-certified product makers, 399 more than existed in 2005.
Modern-day funeral and burial practices, which have their origins in the American Civil War, veered well away from the biblical notion of ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Battlefield surgeons and others began embalming dead soldiers during the Civil War as a way to preserve the bodies during transport from battlegrounds to their homes hundreds of miles away. The practice was also useful in combating a gruesome phenomenon known as exploding casket syndrome, caused by a buildup of gases inside the coffin during decomposition. Some 40,000 Civil War soldiers were embalmed of the estimated nearly 650,000 who were killed.The funeral of Abraham Lincoln helped popularize the practice of embalming and set the tone for elaborate farewells, historians say.On April 19, 1865, four days after his death, Abraham Lincoln’s body began a 1,654-mile odyssey that took him from the White House and the Capitol in Washington to his final resting place in Springfield, Ill. The trip included stops in several towns and cities, including Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Chicago. At each major stop, the coffin was moved to a central viewing place and then opened so that mourners could pay their final respects.
Down with the dead
In addition to embalming chemicals, a lot of wood, steel and concrete goes down with the dead.
“For all its verdant landscaping, the typical cemetery functions less like a bucolic resting ground for the dead than a landfill for the materials that infuse and encase them,” wrote Bethlehem-based environmental journalist Mark Harris, author of a book called “Grave Matters” and a leading advocate of green burial practices.A one-acre section of cemetery, with about 1,250 people buried, will contain 3,750 gallons of formaldehyde-based preservative, 187,500 board feet of wood for coffins and 2.5 million pounds of concrete. If steel coffins are used, and they are used often, that would roughly equal 162,500 pounds of steel, more if heavier gauge steel is selected.There are 2,728 cemeteries in Pennsylvania. The Charles Evans Cemetery, one of the most historic cemeteries in Berks County, measures about 120 acres, and more than 70,000 people are interred there. Gethsemane Cemetery in Muhlenberg has about 70 acres, and 32,000 are buried there.Arlington National Cemetery, arguably the nation’s most revered cemetery, is 625 acres.The funeral industry is estimated to be worth $20 billion with about 2.4 million funerals held each year, according to Sara J. Marsden, editor-in-chief for U.S. Funerals Online.The National Funeral Directors Association published the median cost of an adult funeral, with viewing and a burial at $8,508 nationally. According to www.funeral.com, the cost of a traditional funeral, which includes basic fees, transfer of body, embalming or refrigeration, body preparation, viewing and visitation, graveside service and the casket or coffin, ranges from $7,000 to $10,000.”There’s a desire in many areas of our lives to lessen our impact on the globe,” said Jessica Koth of the National Funeral Directors Association.
‘A natural evolution’
“There are electric cars, organic and locally grown food and recycling,” she said. “Green burials are sort of the natural evolution of our lives becoming green.”
In a green burial, the body is shrouded in natural fiber. Caskets, if they are used at all, are made of everything from simple pine to woven bamboo or wicker, sea grass, wool or cardboard. The dead are typically lowered by hand into a grave, where the forces of nature are allowed to exert themselves without obstruction from chemicals, unnatural fibers or man-made barriers of concrete, plastic or steel.The Green Burial Council certifies funeral homes, cemeteries and funeral products as green based on various eco-friendly practices. To be certified, for example, funeral homes must offer three types of biodegradable caskets made from material that is easily harvested and quickly regrown. Cemeteries must disallow burial of embalmed bodies, concrete and metal in their green areas. Coffin makers, among others, must get raw material harvested in responsible ways, to name just a few of the requirements.The Weisses said they aren’t out to make a statement or to prove a point, but given their green lifestyle, a green burial seems appropriate.Working with Kuhn Funeral Home on their plans, they chose simple, wooden caskets similar to those used in Jewish burials.”I don’t need all that contrivance,” Gloria said. “I don’t need all that fancy stuff. But some people do, and that’s fine.”
Back to the future
Green or natural burials are nothing new.
“This isn’t a trend,” said Jim Olsen, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association. “This is what (society) has always done.”Timothy Kolasa, executive director of Gethsemane Cemetery, agrees: “It’s just really getting back to basics.””Some people are looking for a more simplified option,” he said. “Cremation has been that option for many years.”Kolasa added that the cemetery had been considering the move since 2012. No plots have yet been filled, but some have been pre-arranged.Paxtang Cemetery near Harrisburg opened in August, 2014, according to owner Alesia Skinner. An ardent supporter of the environment and green burials, Skinner opened The Woods Edge.Sylvia Crum, Skinner’s mom, loved the idea.”She was a country girl at heart,” Skinner said of her mom. “She came from a farm, and it was one of her happiest places. She was a very whole-earthy kind of a person. She loved nature.”Crum died of pancreatic cancer in August 2014 and became the first person to be buried at The Woods Edge.Tragically, Patrick B. Ytsma, 53, of Bethlehem, an avid bicyclist and architect, was struck by a car and killed while biking. He became the first person interred at Green Meadow in Salisbury Township. Friends, many of whom rode their bikes to his funeral on Dec. 10, 2011, said he would have wanted it that way.
Green burials can cost between $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the cemetery, according to CostHelper Inc., a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based provider of consumer information.
The Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina, considered by some as the epicenter of green burials in the U.S., charges $2,500 to $3,500 for a gravesite.Natural burial plots at Gethsemane are larger, measuring 5 feet by 10 feet, than normal plots, and slightly more expensive, Kolasa said. “A cemetery’s only asset is land,” he said.Plots at Gethsemane range usually between $500 and $2,500, depending on location. The Weisses chose their little section of eternity near a hilltop and away from the car path.Casket costs can vary. A company called Final Footprint sells green caskets made with materials such as banana leaf, rattan, sea grass, wood and organic fibers for less than $1,000. They are made in the U.S., Poland and Indonesia, and are certified as fair trade. For $4.95, Piedmont Pine Coffins will sell you plans so you can build your own coffin with material that will cost you less than $200.
Movement inches along
Despite its passionate disciples, the movement is inching along in Berks County.
Green burials “will certainly gain in popularity down the road,” said Kyle Blankenbiller, funeral director and manager of Auman Funeral Homes, with two locations in the Reading area.”There’s not a real need right now,” said Joseph D. Giles of Milkins Giles Funeral Home in Muhlenberg Township. “I have no idea what it will look like in the future,” he said.But Olsen, a longtime funeral director from Sheboygan, Wis., who speaks nationally on behalf of the National Funeral Directors Association, said there might be a very good reason for funeral directors to get on board.Soaring cremation rates are burning up profits as families who cremate tend to buy fewer services from funeral homes.”I’ve lowered my cremation rate by offering this,” Olsen said. “I’ve found that by sitting down and listening to the families I serve I’ve actually captured a new portion of business.”Harris believes the pendulum is swinging back toward natural burial faster than some might admit.”This boomer generation is leaning green,” he said. “It’s the greening of society. They launched the first Earth Day, and now the leading edge of the boomer generation is slouching into retirement. They will bring those same green values to bear on end-of-life decisions.”Millennials, he added, are “definitely going green.”And while environmentalists aren’t exactly beating down his doors, Michael Kuhn, who worked with the Weisses, said, “It’s very appealing to some people.”Searching for the right words to describe the trend, Kuhn unwittingly stumbled into what might be the best description of all: “It’s kind of a grass roots movement.”
[H]umans have had to face death and mortality since since the beginning of time, but our experience of the dying process has changed dramatically in recent history.
Haider Warraich, a fellow in cardiology at Duke University Medical Center, tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that death used to be sudden, unexpected and relatively swift — the result of a violent cause, or perhaps an infection. But, he says, modern medicines and medical technologies have lead to a “dramatic extension” of life — and a more prolonged dying processes.
“We’ve now … introduced a phase of our life, which can be considered as ‘dying,’ in which patients have terminal diseases in which they are in and out of the hospital, they are dependent in nursing homes,” Warraich says. “That is something that is a very, very recent development in our history as a species.”
Prolonging life might sound like a good thing, but Warraich notes that medical technologies often force patients, their loved ones and their doctors to make difficult, painful decisions. In his new book, Modern Death, he writes about a patient with end-stage dementia who screamed “kill me” as a feeding tube was inserted into his nose.
“This is probably one of the encounters that I had in residency that I have been unable to shake from my memory,” Warraich says. “I think if you ask any physician, any nurse, any paramedic, they’ll have many such stories to tell you.”
On the importance of having a healthcare proxy, living will and advanced directive
One of the biggest problems that we face in not only modern society, but in societies of olden times as well, is that people have always been very afraid to talk about death. In many cultures it is considered bad luck to talk about death and it is thought to be a bad omen. I think to some extent that extends to this very day. But … I think having a living will, having an advanced directive, or perhaps most importantly, having a designated healthcare proxy, someone who can help transmit your decisions to the team when you’re not able to do so, is perhaps the most important thing that we can do for ourselves as patients and as human beings.
On giving CPR and knowing when to stop giving CPR
One of the things about CPR, Terry, is that almost everyone in medicine knows how to start CPR, when to start CPR, really what to do in CPR under even complex situations, but the one thing that almost no one really teaches us, and there are no guidelines for, is when to stop CPR. I think in some ways that is one of the biggest challenges that we in medicine face all the time. …
I was actually working in the hospital last night and it was about 3 in the morning and I was called by one of my other colleagues who was another cardiology fellow, he asked me, “Haider, I need your help. I have a patient that we are doing CPR on,” and he wanted some help from me. So I walked over to the intensive care unit, and the patient was in her 60s. … There was an entire team in the room doing chest compressions on this woman, and they had been doing it for an hour and a half at that point, much, much, much longer than most CPRs last. …
At the same time while this CPR was ongoing, the patient’s family member, her daughter, was outside the room, and she was crying. … Even though we could give her all the information … that wasn’t perhaps what she was looking for, because what we were asking her to think about or to do was one of the hardest things anyone has to ever bear, which was, “Do you want us to stop CPR?” And that’s the type of thing that I don’t think any of us can ever prepare for, especially when it’s our parent that’s involved.
On why he wrote a book about dying
I really wanted to find answers to some very, very basic questions, like what are the implications of the sort of life extension that we have achieved? What is the role of religion, not only a patient’s religion but a physician’s religion when it comes to dealing with the end of life? How is social media affecting how people experience the end of life? …
So many times I’ve found myself in the room where there are people who were so much more experienced in life than I was, yet knew so little about death and dying. And so I wanted to write a book so that people could go into those really, really difficult places and feel like they’re armed with information, that this isn’t a completely foreign territory for them and that in some way could help them navigate and deal with the sort of difficult situations that lay ahead for them.
It is very unfortunate that health is so politicized in this country, because it doesn’t have to be. Health and wellness aren’t red or blue, and they shouldn’t be, but unfortunately that is where we are. I hope that when policies are being enacted in DC, patient’s voices, those who have benefited from the ACA, those who have gained insurance, those voices are not lost in the midst of all of this political activity.
On immigrating to the U.S. from Pakistan
I came to the United States in 2010 and [until now] have only lived in an America in which Barack Obama was the president. I think in some ways Trump’s victory has really shaken me, because of how invested I was in the idea that America is a special place, it’s a truly multicultural society. And I’m still trying to understand, I think like so many others, just exactly what happened. Especially as a writer and as a physician I’ve tried to separate myself from my identity as a Muslim. I’d rather be known as a physician/scientist/writer who happens to be Pakistani, rather than a young Pakistani Muslim immigrant who happens to be a doctor and a writer, but I don’t know. Given how things are changing, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to set that narrative for myself. That’s a scary thought — to live an identity that is so politicized even when you wish for it to not be.
But it appears our regrets gain a lot of weight as we approach the end of our lives.
For many years, Bronnie Ware – an Australian nurse and counselor – worked in palliative care; taking care of terminally ill people, most of whom had less than 12 weeks to live.
Her patients were typically old people with very serious illnesses, waiting to die.
And a lot of her work involved providing counseling and relief from the physical and mental stresses that come naturally when a human being comes face to face with their mortality.
Death is not a comfortable subject for most people. We prefer to not think or talk about it.
But the sad truth is, all of us will die someday.
Knowing you are going to die in a few weeks is a very bitter pill to swallow. And Bronnie noticed as her patients experienced a range of emotions that usually started with denial, and then fear, anger, remorse, more denial, and eventually, acceptance.
As part of therapy, Bronnie would ask about any regrets they had about their lives, and anything they would do differently if life gave them a second chance.
Of all the responses she got from her patients, she noticed there were 5 regrets that stood out. These were the most common regrets her patients wished they hadn’t made as they coursed through life.
But the regrets of the dying can be sound and invaluable advice for the living.
And that’s why it’s a really good thing you’re reading this article.
One of the key revelations from Bronnie’s study is that we often take our lives for granted because we are healthy.
Health affords us boundless freedom very few realise, until we no longer have it.
But while her dying patients were helpless in the face of their regrets, you and I still have time to do something about our regrets, before it’s too late.
Let’s now look at each of the 5 most common regrets Bronnie observed:
1) I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me
According to Bronnie, this was by far the most common regret of all.
When people realise their life is coming to an end, it becomes easier to look back and see all those dreams they had but didn’t have the courage to pursue.
In many cases, their failure to pursue those dreams were often due to fitting into the expectations of others – usually family, friends and society.
One of her dying patients, Grace, made Bronnie promise that she would pursue all her dreams and live her life to its fullest potential without ever considering what others would say.
According to Bronnie, Grace was in a long but unhappy marriage. And after her husband was put in a nursing home, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. And Grace’s biggest regret was that she never was able to pursue all the dreams she put on hold.
I think the biggest lesson from this regret is, if you know what really makes you happy, do it!
It appears that our unfulfilled dreams and aspirations have a way of silently stalking us, and eventually haunt our memories in our dying days.
And if you’re afraid of what people will say about your choices, remember that their voices will not matter to you in your dying days.
2) I wish I didn’t work so hard
This one makes me feel guilty.
According to Bronnie, this regret came from every male patient she nursed. And a few female patients too.
As breadwinners, their lives were taken over by work, making a living, and pursuing a career. While this role was important, these patients regretted that they allowed work to take over their lives causing them to spend less time with their loved ones.
Their regrets were usually about missing out on the lives of their children and the companionship of their spouse.
When asked what they would do differently if given a second chance, the response was quite surprising.
Most of them believed that by simplifying our lifestyle and making better choices, we may not need all that money we’re chasing. That way, we can create more space in our lives for happiness and spend more time with the people who mean the most to us.
3) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my mind
This one just made me so much bolder. 🙂
According to Bronnie, many of her dying patients believed they suppressed their true feelings and didn’t speak their mind when they should have, because they wanted to keep peace with others.
Most of them chose not to confront difficult situations and people, even when it offended them. By suppressing their anger, they built up a lot of bitterness and resentment which ultimately affected their health.
Worse still, harbouring bitterness can cripple you emotionally and stand in the way of fulfilling your true potential.
To avoid this type of regret later in life, it’s important to understand that honesty and confrontation are a necessary part of healthy relationships.
There is a common misconception that confrontation is bad for relationships and can only create division.
Not all the time.
In reality, when confrontation is kind, honest and constructive, it helps to deepen mutual respect and understanding and can take the relationship to a healthier level.
By speaking our minds, we express our true feelings and reduce the risks of building up unhealthy stores of bitterness that ultimately hurt us.
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
This one is a regret many of us struggle with.
Bronnie found that her patients missed their old friends and regretted they didn’t give those friendships the investment of time and effort they deserved.
Everyone misses their friends when they’re dying.
It appears that when health and youth have faded, and death is looming, people realise that some friendships hold more value than all their wealth and achievements.
According to Bronnie, it all comes down to love and relationships in the end. Nothing else mattered to her patients in the last few weeks of their lives but love and relationships.
We live in a busy world these days. And the pressures and demands of work, city life and trying to raise a family can take its toll on some golden relationships.
Knowing this now, what would you do differently?
5) I wish I had let myself be happier
This is a very humbling one, really.
Many of her patients didn’t realise until the end of their lives that happiness is a choice.
They wished they had known that happiness isn’t something to be chased and acquired through wealth, social acceptance and the trappings of life.
In their deathbeds, these patients realized they could have chosen to be happy, regardless of their circumstances in life – rich or poor.
To me, this regret is the most touching.
Throughout our active lives, we often focus too much on acquiring the things we would like to have – wealth, status, power and achievement. We often (wrongly) believe that these things hold the keys to our happiness.
When asked what they could have done differently, here’s the key message those dying folks shared: Learn to relax and appreciate the good things in your life. That’s the only way to find real happiness.
Happiness is a choice.
Is it possible to live a life without regrets?
This is the big question I’ve been asking myself.
As no human being is perfect, and I doubt there’s anything like a “perfect life”, I expect all of us would have some regret(s) in our dying days.
But I think the key is to have as few regrets as possible.
And the best way to die with very few regrets is to live life as if we would die today.
After all, almost nobody knows exactly when they’ll die.
By living our lives as if the end is nigh, we would realise that we really don’t have all the time in the world. As a result, we would procrastinate less, and pursue our truest desires, dreams and aspirations.
Also, to live a life of few regrets, we have to focus on and accommodate ONLY those things and people that make us happy. Because if we try to conform to the expectations of others and hide our true feelings, the regrets could haunt us later in life.
If you’re reading this article and you’re alive and healthy, you still have a choice.
Remember, you only live once!
Don’t forget to share this article with people you care about. You may just save someone a ton of regrets.
Iowa City Hospice has worked hard to create a day dedicated to aid children in dealing with death.
By Kayli Reese
[K]amp Kaleidoscope kids spent a fun day Jan. 28 making friends and crafts despite the ever-pressing discussion hanging through the air — the subject of death.
Kimberly Peterson of Iowa City Hospice said the one-day camp focuses on helping children understand grief and provides support in the wake of a death of a loved one. Kamp Kaleidoscope was put on by the Iowa City Hospice bereavement counselors and volunteers.
This is the second such Kamp Kaleidoscope event, Peterson said. Iowa City Hospice began this event for children in June 2016, she said.
“At Iowa City Hospice, we’re always evaluating our services,” she said. “We wanted to expand support for children and youth.”
Emily Mozena, a Hospice volunteer and a University of Iowa lecturer in the graduate Child Life Program, said Kamp Kaleidoscope in June was very successful, and more children participated in the January event. She said Iowa City Hospice hopes to have Kamp Kaleidoscope events twice a year.
The camp supports children who have lost someone close to them, she said, be it a grandparent, parent, or sibling.
Peterson said kids can come to the camp more than one time, and any of the children can receive any follow-up support needed.
“[The camp is] a really safe space for kids to talk about death,” Mozena said, noting how difficult it can be for children to speak about such heavy topics in schools. “It’s amazing to listen and see what the kids are willing to share.”
After starting the day by decorating bags and participating in silly icebreakers, Mozena said, the kids began delving into the heavier emotions the camp focuses on. The theme of this event was seasons, she said, and the kids spent time thinking of memories with their deceased loved ones that can be associated with each season. Some of these memories, she said, include building snowmen, playing with water balloons, and jumping in leaves.
A music therapist also participated, Mozena said, creating a song based on the kids’ memories. During the closing ceremony for parents, she said, the kids agreed to perform the song.
A nurse from the Hospice also came to the camp, she said, to answer any questions the kids had about the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. She said talking compassionately but plainly with the kids helps to minimize questions and creates less confusion.
“Open communication with the kids and using simpler terms is key,” Mozena said. “Using the ‘D-words’ — death and dying — is very important.”
Kelsey Tebbe, a volunteer for Kamp Kaleidoscope and UI graduate student in Child Life, said she found it amazing how the kids opened up to each other and the volunteers in only a day. In the beginning, she said, the kids were shy, but they quickly were able to talk openly and comfort one another.
Tebbe noted that she found the ability of kids, some who were only 6 years old, to understand their feelings surrounding death, using big words to describe their emotions.
During the day’s events, she said she learned important methods and resources to practice later in her field, citing the experience as extremely eye-opening. By taking time to build each child’s trust, Tebbe said, the kids were able to leave Kamp Kaleidoscope with a better outlook and better understanding of coping.
“With a 6-year-old, you don’t always know what they’re going through by looking at them,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to talk.”