Ushering Pets Gently to the End

— A caring and dignified death by in-home euthanasia can help bring solace to grieving pet owners

Kerri Miller’s dog, Cookie

By Kerri Miller

The first message I left on the veterinarian’s phone last winter was so distorted by tears and grief that I had to call back twice to repeat the details.

It had been 26 hours of sleeplessness and stress since our older shepherd’s legs had given way beneath her and I realized she wouldn’t be able to stand again on her own.

We were fast approaching a moment where her diminished quality of life — she wasn’t eating much and had given up on our daily walks — was edging into suffering. My husband and I anguished over what we knew was inevitable. We’d used in-home euthanasia services when our previous dog had developed cancer, but I think I would’ve been comforted if I’d known about the advice that veterinarians like Dr. Kenzie Quick gives to clients in times like these: “Better a moment too soon than a day too late.”

“This little buddy of mine has seen me through so many things that no one else has.”

Quick, a Tucson, Arizona, staff veterinarian with Lap of Love, a company that provides in-home hospice and euthanasia service for pets, acknowledges that knowing exactly when to make the decision to put a companion animal out of their pain is a delicate one. “There is no perfect time,” she says. “Any time between when their quality of life is no longer good but they’re not suffering. Any time in that zone is the time to say goodbye.”

Saying goodbye to Rex, Heather Boschke’s Yorkie/Pomeranian mix, was something she dreaded. “He’s seen me through job transitions, two boyfriends and one fiancé. This little buddy of mine has seen me through so many things that no one else has.”

But at sixteen years old, Rex had advanced kidney disease, wore diapers and was struggling to walk. Boschke and her husband reached out to friends who recommended MN Pets, Minnesota-based in-home euthanasia care.

What she found, Boschke says, was empathy and, most important, confirmation that she was making the best decision for Rex. “The memory we have of his passing was caring and dignified.”

Paradox of Difficult Yet Fulfilling Work

Quick believes that’s an essential part of her interaction with the pet owner, from the first call to the moment when the animal is gone. “My role is to come in, be calm, validate their decision and then to take really good care of their pet. To let them know that I have this under control and to provide that peaceful transition,” she explains.

A woman holding a small dog. Next Avenue, in-home euthanasia for pet, putting pet down at home
Heather Boschke and Rex

Dr. Karen Fine, a veterinarian and author of “The Other Family Doctor,” writes that when she began making house calls and offering in-home euthanasia services, she had to learn to be comfortable “around grief and intense emotions.” She adds, “I often felt like I didn’t belong in the sacred space between human and animal at such a pivotal moment.”

The number of vets who specialize in in-home euthanasia has grown over the last several decades, but overall, there is a shortage of practicing veterinarians. That means that the demand for in-home services like hospice and euthanasia has skyrocketed.

Kristi Lehman, a veterinary social worker for MN Pets, worries about the demands on the doctors and staff. “Our team is being pushed to their physical limits with how many families they can see and how many appointments they can drive to. So, there is a lot of discussion about our doctors’ quality of life.”

Complete Article HERE!

Why, when and how to talk with grieving clients about sex

By Kailey Bradley and Victoria Kress

Grief is an experience that everyone navigates at different points in their lives. For the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted peoples’ lives in myriad ways and left many experiencing significant grief.

Loss can also deeply affect one’s sexuality, a concept referred to as sexual bereavement. Any form of loss, not just the loss of a sexual partner, can alter one’s sexual desire. As noted in Alice Radosh and Linda Simkin’s 2016 article published in Reproductive Health Matters, both sexuality and grief are stigmatized, which creates a double-barreled taboo. This double stigma can result in someone not feeling comfortable or confident addressing the topic.

When working with clients who have experienced loss, counselors must consider the interplay between grief and sexuality. There are few spaces where clients can address their grief and even fewer safe spaces where they can discuss their sexuality, so it is important that counselors consider how they can approach this subject with clients. This article discusses why this topic is important and when and how counselors can address the intersection of grief and sexuality with clients.

Why is this topic important?

Radosh and Simkin noted that some bereaved clients want to discuss how their sexuality has changed as a result of grief, yet they are often hesitant to do so. Clients may perceive that sexuality and grief cannot coexist. If this is the case, then they may feel shame if they have sexual feelings while grieving. Clients may also believe it is inappropriate to admit that they miss intimacy or that their sexual desire has changed. Other clients may perceive sexuality as distant and remote — something that may never again feel accessible.

The complexities of this topic, combined with counselors’ and clients’ personal discomfort, may cause counselors to avoid addressing it. This discomfort can arise because counselors are uncertain about how to broach the topic, counselors are uncomfortable with the topic of sexuality in general or the client is hesitant to bring the topic up. Although we do not know a lot about how various aspects of sexuality are affected after a loss, it is clear this is an issue that people experience as part of their normal development and growth, so counselors must be prepared to address this topic.

When to address this topic?

Although there is no right time to address this topic, counselors can introduce conversations related to the topic early in the counseling process. They could include questions about how grief has impacted the client’s sexuality on the intake form and then use the information the client provided to gently broach the topic during the first session. Counselors may also need to go slow and consider if it makes sense to bring up the topic during one of the initial sessions. For example, it may not be a good idea to discuss it in the first session if the client has a lot of shame around the topic of sexuality. In this situation, clinicians need to establish therapeutic trust and rapport before mentioning the topic. This approach will help clients feel safe enough to share their experiences.

Counselors can also ask clients to describe the various realms in their lives that have been affected by loss and grief, and they can mention sexuality as one possible area. And throughout the counseling process, clinicians can validate and normalize their clients’ experiences regarding grief and sexuality.

Because clients will move at their own pace and some may want to revisit the topic throughout counseling, regular check-ins with clients can be helpful. Counselors can encourage clients to engage in these difficult conversations by asking them to create “permission slips” to attend to forgotten or challenging dimensions of grief. Clinicians can give clients a scrap piece of paper and ask them to write out an area in their lives that is affected by grief that they find difficult to discuss. Another option is for counselors to write down overlooked topics related to grief and sexuality — such as dating, desire and arousal, physical changes, ways to talk about grief with a partner — on a sheet of paper and then ask clients to choose a topic from the list they want to discuss.

How can counselors help clients?

There is limited research on how to support clients’ sexuality in the context of grief. Formal interventions, however, may not be as important as the compassionate environment and empathic presence a counselor provides. Empathic presence can help clients introduce difficult conversations at their own pace and on their own terms.

Psychoeducation can also play an important role in counseling this population. For example, counselors can share that for some clients, sexual desire and arousal increase after a loss while others have the opposite experience. Providing education around the different reactions people have to grief can validate clients’ experiences and help them connect with the ways they may be experiencing grief. Counselors can also teach clients that grief is not just relegated to the cognitive or emotional domain; our bodies carry and process grief as well, and in this way, our bodies grieve. Providing this education to clients may allow them to feel relief that their somatic reactions surrounding sexuality after a loss are valid.

Another area of psychoeducation that could be valuable to clients is the identification of their grieving styles. The Grief Pattern Inventory is a tool that can help clients gain insight into how they are approaching the grief process. (For more, see Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin’s Men Don’t Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief.) Understanding how a person is grieving can help the client and counselor gain valuable insight into the client’s grief process. Intuitive grief is an emotional style of grief in which emotional expression is valued, whereas instrumental grief is a cognitive style of grief in which problem-solving is valued. According to Doka and Martin, a client who identifies as having an intuitive style of grief will prefer a space to emotionally express the wide range of feelings that emerge when considering the intersection of sexuality and grief. In contrast, a client who identifies with an instrumental style of grief may prefer using specific techniques to reengage with their sexuality because they may view the changes in their sexuality after a loss as a problem to be solved. Counselors can introduce this concept to clients and invite them to consider how their grieving style may be affecting how they approach their sexuality after loss.

Finally, creative interventions can be a powerful way to help clients navigate these issues. Counselors can invite clients to write themselves a permission slip to engage with their sexuality in whatever way feels appropriate to them. For example, they might write, “I give myself permission to lean into the feelings that arise when I consider how my sexuality has changed in the following ways.” Clinicians can also encourage clients to create a grief playlist in which they share songs that help describe or capture the feelings surrounding the areas of their life that are affected by grief (including sexuality). Clients could share their grief playlists with their partners and identify how their grief experience is similar or different. Overall, outward expression of loss can help validate the complexity of feelings that arise when navigating this double-barreled taboo.

Addressing personal biases

When working with this population, it is important to be mindful of biases that both the client and counselor may have about grief and sexuality. Some common biases include the assumption that sexual desire disappears after a loss, sexuality is not appropriate to discuss after a loss or having sexual desire after a loss is wrong. To address these biases, counselors can use reflective questions and journaling prompts that ask individuals to reflect on what they have been taught culturally about grief etiquette, sexuality and scripts surrounding what is normal after grief. Again, some might feel judgmental of a griever whose sexual desire and/or arousal has increased after a death. However, addressing our own biases will help create a hospitable environment where a client is met with nonjudgment.


Counselors play an important role in empowering clients who are grieving. Even though we live in a grief-avoidant culture where we shy away from pain, counselors can create a refuge of hospitality where we can openly acknowledge what is uncomfortable. It is in our power and our scope of practice to gently remind clients that it is OK to talk about the intersection of grief and sexuality and to meet our clients with compassionate curiosity and encourage them to grant themselves permission and space to grieve and embrace their sexuality after loss in whatever way makes sense to them.

Complete Article HERE!

Grieving Through Google

— After my dad’s cancer diagnosis, Google Translate became a tool for survival—and then, remembrance.

By Miun Gleeson

When my dad died, he became part of the cloud.

Not the one up high in the sky, but rather an online cumulus that now stores and archives a record of his last 18 months on earth. On my laptop, and even more prominently on my phone, I carry with me digital traces of my dad that I can’t yet bring myself to access. Four years after his death, I still sit with a kind of grief that remains more raw than residual, and his memory lingers in digital purgatory—undeleted yet untouched; saved but not sought. He “lives” in this liminal digital space; like a grave I can’t yet bring myself to visit, but simply know is there.

This notion of keeping my dad “close” is ironic, given that the experience of losing him was marked by deep distances. My dad and I lived 1,800 miles apart, he in California and I in Missouri. There was also linguistic distance between us, which was in many ways more difficult to bridge. As an American-born Korean, English had always been my first language, and I never really learned how to speak Korean. I did a short stint at Korean language school, where I learned the alphabet and mastered the preemptive explanation I’d have ready anytime I encountered another Korean person: “I understand better than I can speak.”

Despite having emigrated to the U.S. from Korea nearly 40 years ago, my dad similarly never mastered English. Even though my Korean fluency would surely have made his life easier, he never forced it when I was younger, which made him an outlier among many parents in our community who were raising bilingual first-generation children. As an adult, I asked my dad—with a mix of both surprise and gratitude—why he never mandated I learn Korean with the same insistence as so many other parents.

“Why I do? Because you born here and die here,” he answered.

Still, our bond was deep, enduring, and always made whole despite his broken English and my equally fractured Korean. We codeswitched and improvised; we asked and answered each other in both languages. My dad had his standbys and shorthand (“Did you eat yet?”) that expressed everything I ever needed to know about how much he loved me. Ours was a profound, implicit relationship that was strong enough to weather anything. Until it was put to the ultimate test.

When a loved one is dying, the learning curve is steep. There is a dense vocabulary of disease and little time to get up to speed. In need of a fast and familiar resource, I Googled my way through all the insidious ways cancer can destroy a liver and pages of impossible, vowel-laden medications.

But my dad and I required a two-step process as I assumed my role as language liaison with his medical team. I had to graduate to Google Translate, enlisting it to do what I could not as I learned how to convey bad news in two languages. I had never used Google Translate before and was relieved by its simple interface. Choose your languages, copy and paste. As they flashed on the screen, the translations themselves carried a certainty and confidence that the information they conveyed often lacked. I constantly toggled between English to Korean and Korean to English. Along the way, I acquired some new words in Korean, like bangsaneung for radiation and gan for liver. But even my latent knowledge of Korean surprised me at times, as I remembered the word for sadness, and even complete sentences: Appa, did you eat yet?

Clumsily, my dad and I did this dance for a while; me trying to facilitate care despite being geographically undesirable and culturally inept, never mind what I felt this long goodbye was personally inflicting on a molecular level. In the winter of 2017, when we were just six months past the initial diagnosis and learned that the cancer would most assuredly kill him by summer, my dad announced he was returning to his native Korea to die.

Why I do? Because I born there and die there.

Once my dad moved, the language barrier became even more difficult to manage with my non-English-speaking relatives, who had to now serve as my intermediaries. We were pivoting to long-distance death, shifting settings and reversing roles. My first phone calls to Korea to get updates were disastrous, as the seemingly simple act of communication became an impossible juggling act: talk, Google Translate, listen, Google Translate, don’t fall apart.

Desperate for a better way to communicate, I downloaded KakaoTalk. The free and widely popular Korean messaging platform (which also includes voice and video calls) was convenient—all of my family members were already on it, and as soon as I added my name and a profile picture of me and my dad, we quickly found each other.

Indispensable companion pieces, I used KakaoTalk in tandem with Google Translate. It was far from perfect, but we eventually established a clunky but workable communications cadence by relying primarily on the chat function. Those saved conversations through KakaoTalk also live in the cloud. But I have only revisited the translated transcripts with my aunts and uncles once, knowing that some of these halting, heart-wrenching exchanges will never truly leave me.

Is he okay? Why doesn’t he want me to come see him now? This is absolutely breaking me.

Your father doesn’t want you to remember him this way. He says you are his entire life.

For weeks, KakaoTalk and Google Translate were a lifeline to my dying dad. I carried an intense shame at having to use an online translation service to communicate both my personal and practical needs that final spring. But when I finally made it to Korea, I was embraced by my family’s tacit, touching love that could only be conveyed in person. My dad waited to die until I flew back to the States after a weeklong vigil. The news was fittingly relayed to me via KakaoTalk, 15 hours into the next day on the other side of the world. I flew back to Korea one final time for his funeral—janglye, Google Translate informed me. But the actual experience of saying goodbye defied easy translation.

I realize that it seems odd to hold on to this untouched electronic ecosystem of a period that was just terribly sad. I can’t help but see my archive of searches, translations, and conversations within these apps as personally damning. They lay bare my shortcomings, my faults, my too many questions, my one-minute-let-me-translate-this entreaties. They provoke a maelstrom of “ifs”: If I had lived closer, if I had been more Korean, if I had somehow been better prepared for the unthinkable so I didn’t have to rely on my phone to get me through this.

But there is another set of “ifs”: What if I didn’t have these technological supports? They did what they were supposed to on a pressing, practical level—educate, coordinate, confirm, translate, expedite, communicate. And even though I cannot yet click through it, this electronic ephemera also reinforces that my loss, largely experienced in an out-of-body haze, was very much real. It’s an untainted, technologically aided record that is available if and when I can revisit it.

I hold on to hope that the way I see this digital record could one day change—no longer as a personal indictment, but perhaps as evidence that I tried. Perhaps as a first step toward slowly forgiving myself. For now, it is a phantom presence hanging overhead, omnipresent and accessible at any time, a reminder that my dad is nowhere and everywhere all at once.

Complete Article HERE!

Why We All Need To Better Recognize Our Grief

By Sarah Regan

When we hear the word “grief,” our minds typically jump right to death. We grieve family and friends who have passed, yes—but what about all the other little things in life we grieve that don’t involve a literal death?

Here’s what clinical psychologist Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., CNS, had to say about this oft-misunderstood emotion, in a recent conversation with mindbodygreen.

What we get wrong about grief.

According to Beurkens, only thinking about grief in the context of death keeps us from properly grieving other endings or metaphorical “deaths” in our lives. This limited definition then inhibits us from actually honoring, processing, and moving through those endings.

“Grief is a pretty intense emotion that we experience in lots of ways,” Beurkens explains.

As she explains, we can grieve any type of loss, from losing a job to losing a relationship to losing a former version of yourself as you grow into your next evolution or chapter of life. She notes that feelings of nostalgia could even fall under grief’s umbrella, too.

You can even grieve for a future you never had, which you might experience when going through a breakup, for example. Suddenly, the future you’d imagined with this person will never happen, even though you’d been planning for it—and that’s a loss that will certainly bring up feelings of grief.

“We can grieve change—any kind of change. So I think people don’t realize that a lot of what we attribute to sadness is actually more accurately labeled as grief,” Beurkens tells us. “They don’t think about it because no one died—but a lot of the sadness, a lot of the melancholy—a lot of that stems from grieving in some way.”

How to make room for grief in your life—because it deserves the space.

The first step to working through any of the more difficult emotions is, of course, identifying it in the first place.

In the case of grief, locate that feeling in your body. What does it actually feel like? (Note: We’re not asking you to intellectualize what, or why, you’re grieving—just feel the feeling!)

From there, Beurkens says, remember that emotions do come and go with time. Sometimes we lean away from grieving because it feels too painful to face, but this only results in stifling those emotions, forcing them to pile up inside you. Trust that by dealing with your emotions now, you’ll be better able to move forward.

“That’s one of the things in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that we really work on with people, is this understanding that you are not your feelings,” Beurkens explains, adding, “Your feelings are happening to you in the moment, but they don’t define you—and what you’re feeling now is not the same way that you’re going to be feeling an hour from now or a week from now.”

With this understanding, we can move away from over-identifying with our emotions. Because if you become too preoccupied with grief, or if you never even honor the fact that you’re grieving something, it can start to impact the way you’re operating, from your mental landscape to your behaviors, Beurkens says.

The takeaway.

Grief is primarily reserved for instances of a loved one passing away, but the truth is, we may actually grieve different things all the time, as we’re constantly changing, growing, and evolving. Nostalgia is real, and grief is too—and when we honor it as such, we don’t have to be weighed down by the past and can move through our emotions with more grace and compassion for ourselves.

Complete Article HERE!

Moving Photos Capture People’s Final Moments with Their Pets

By Pesala Bandara

A photographer has set up a nonprofit which offers free end-of-life photo shoots for pet owners.

The Tilly Project was created by Portland-based photographer Lauren Smith-Kennedy in 2021 and began as a small Facebook group.

Now, the international non-profit has a database of over 1,400 photographers around the world who offer their services to grieving pet owners and capture the tender moments families share with their beloved animal companions as they say goodbye for the final time.

Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project

“This photography acts as a tool to allow families to navigate through their own grief journey while having tangible memories of their pet’s final stages of life,” Smith-Kennedy tells PetaPixel.

“Many times, scheduling this type of session can also allow the families to come to terms with anticipatory grief.”

Alexpressions Photography | The Tilly Project
2 Girls & Their Cameras | The Tilly Project
2 Girls & Their Cameras | The Tilly Project
Linked Hearts Photography | The Tilly Project
Mandy Houston Photography | The Tilly Project
Emma Beth Photography | The Tilly Project
Emma Beth Photography | The Tilly Project

Smith-Kennedy has shared some of the beautiful and moving images that The Tilly Project’s photographers have captured for pet owners across the globe.

Smith-Kennedy, who works as a director at a wildlife center, began The Tilly Project after she experienced her own loss when her cat Tilly passed away in a freak accident.

The traumatic experience inspired her to use her photography skills for a good cause and help others who were experiencing the loss of a pet.

Smith-Kennedy began offering free end-of-life photo shoots to other pet owners as a way to always remember their animals. She also began collecting the names and information of other photographers who were willing to offer the same service.

Tasha Sport Photography | The Tilly Project
Belay’s Paws In Motion | The Tilly Project
Kristin Cole Photography | The Tilly Project
Sweet Camellia Photography | The Tilly Project
Geli Visions | The Tilly Project
Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project

In less than two years, The Tilly Project went from being a Facebook group to a nonprofit and valuable end-of-life pet photography network that provides resources for pet loss and bereavement. It also serves as a support system for those who have lost or are about to lose a pet.

“There is a high demand for end-of-life pet photography — many families want that chance to celebrate and honor the lives of their pets who mean the world to them. Some weeks I will receive hundreds of inquiries,” Smith-Kennedy says.

“When I am doing my end-of-life sessions, I give lots of prompts instead of poses. I love to encourage those authentic, real moments that will then be turned into precious memories.”

Lauren Smith-Kennedy | The Tilly Project[/caption]

Individuals can sign up to become an affiliate photographer with The Tilly Project on the nonprofit’s website.

“We welcome photographers of all skill levels,” Smith-Kennedy explains. “We do require photographers to have an online gallery that displays their work so families are able to see this portfolio prior to connecting.”

She adds: “We have a mix of photographers who offer this service for free, and those who charge as they have a photography business.”

More information on The Tilly Project can be found on the non-profit’s website, Facebook group, and Facebook page.

Complete Article HERE!

How to talk about dying

— ‘Having things in place can help the people grieving the loss’

by Eva-Maria Bobbert

  • Death can be a touchy subject – one that many refrain from until they reach the point where they absolutely must discuss it.
  • But experts say it’s important to make more effort to talk about death for everyone’s benefit.
  • Tackling the subject head-on and making its discussion a normal part of your life, could strengthen bonds, alleviate family tensions and help ensure the wishes of the deceased are met when the time comes.

As far as dealing with death goes, Lisa Gallate inadvertently became an expert early in life.

By the age of 31 she’d lost her sister in a car accident, her first husband had committed suicide, and her fit and seemingly healthy brother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

As we speak, she breaks the interview to take a call from New Zealand where her elderly father is being rushed to hospital in an ambulance after a sudden fall.

“To be honest, I feel like I’ve been dealing with death all my life,” says Lisa, who tackles the subject with admirable eloquence and down-to-earth pragmatism.

“I’d much rather not have had the experience of the loss of so many loved ones, but maybe that’s why talking about end of life doesn’t feel confronting to me. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s the greatest gift that you can give those close to you.”

It’s not a gift many of us are giving.

Research shows although 90% of Australians say talking to their loved ones about their end-of-life wishes is important, only 27% have the conversation.

Given almost three-quarters of deaths are expected, experts say we should all make more effort to talk about death for everyone’s benefit.

“Preparing for death is complex as it includes cognitive, practical and emotional preparedness,” says Professor Lauren Breen, who researches the psychology of grief and loss at Curtin University.

“Knowing someone is dying doesn’t mean we’re automatically prepared for death. It’s hard to be prepared emotionally when we don’t know exactly what will happen, when it will happen, or what the loss will mean for us.”

All the more reason to tackle the topic head-on, according to Dr Breen, because that way you are able to honour someone’s wishes when the time comes.

For Lisa, who has authored a book on grief, the end-of-life discussions she had with her mother offered a comforting sense of certainty when faced with sudden medical decisions.

“The enormity and finality of death feels brutal when it happens, even if you’re expecting it,” she says. “You’re in such a state of heightened emotion that it’s at least a relief to know that you’re not second-guessing their wishes.”

According to Breen, although these conversations can be awkward and upsetting, they are vital.

“Make this a topic of conversation with family and friends before it needs to be, or before it’s too late,” she says. “Having things in place can help the people grieving the loss.”

Recording and updating those plans regularly is also important.

When her mum died, Lisa discovered her mother’s will stated she wanted to be buried.

“That was contrary to our many conversations where she said she wanted her ashes scattered in her homeland, in Ireland,” says Lisa.

“My dad firmly believes you need to be buried within the Christian faith to go to heaven and so we had to have that tough conversation right there and then.

“The nurses were waiting on our decision, so they’d know how to prepare mum’s body. It’s really so much better if families can avoid having those conversations at that moment because emotions are already heightened.”

The reality is facing mortality, our own included, is confronting.

How long is too long to grieve?

In a post-pandemic world where daily death tallies were the norm, it’s easy to imagine that discussing dying with loved ones might have become less taboo, but recent research suggests we still prefer to avoid the short-term discomfort it brings, even if it leads to long-term pain.

“Death may feel too scary, sad or devastating to be raised for fear of opening up emotions that can’t be contained or supported,” says Melissa Reader, the CEO of The Violet Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation that offers free advice and support to carers, friends and family of those facing end of life.

“We might worry it will upset other family or friends, that talking about it might somehow make it happen, or it’s a sign we’ve given up hope for them. But if we plan together, then everyone involved understands how to make the experience the best it can be. This reduces regret after someone has died.”

So, how do you start the conversation?

Breen suggests using films and books dealing with death as a prompt for discussion.

“Family photos can be another way. It doesn’t all have to be discussed in one day,” she says. “In fact, it’s better if death and dying are part of the ongoing conversation we have with people close to us.”

You may even discover death can be a life-affirming topic.

For Lisa, discussing her parents’ end-of-life plans got her thinking about what was meaningful in her own life, and prompted her to set goals to achieve these dreams.

“I love [rabbi and author] Harold Kushner’s idea that not only do we inherit someone’s assets, we also inherit their unlived years. It’s a precious legacy, a reminder to live life to the fullest.”

Even now, amid arranging to see her father for what would turn out to be the last time, Lisa acknowledges it’s reassuring to answer questions about his medical intervention wishes and have instructions for his funeral so his preferences can be honoured.

“Dad had a hand in his farewell as if he was with us,” she says of his funeral. “It’s extraordinary, being human, because when love runs deep, it becomes very real when someone passes. You can’t escape grief, it’s the price for love.”

Here are a few reasons why end of life conversations are important:


Open, honest conversations about death can improve end of life for everyone.

Stronger bonds

Share your feelings of fear and sadness as this brings people together in an intimate way. It encourages rich and valuable discussions about what really matters in life and will also deepen your relationships.

No regrets

Honesty and kindness are not mutually exclusive. End-of-life conversations are an opportunity to express gratitude, love, appreciation, and forgiveness, and can bring a sense of peace, reducing the potential for regret.

Quality time

Discussing what matters most and how people wish to spend their time can help maximise someone’s quality of life. Some people want to be surrounded by family and friends, some want to take the trip of a lifetime and others may just want to be kept comfortable and pain-free.

Honour the individual

Planning for and discussing death can be the difference between having an end-of-life experience that aligns with your values and preferences or one that doesn’t.

Five simple steps to take right now

Diane Young, an addiction and trauma specialist at South Pacific Private, says family conflicts often arise during grief or crisis. To avoid them, she recommends we:

1 – Draft a living will

It not only states how your assets should be distributed, it also states your wishes for end-of-life medical care. Discuss it openly with loved ones.

2 – Write a testament

Appoint an executor to carry out your wishes. Let your family know what your will says, with everyone in the same room, if possible, to save heartache later.

3 – Make funeral plans

Discuss your funeral, who should speak and anything else you’d like in the celebration of your life. Being clear about your wishes can help alleviate disputes after you have died.

4 – Speak from the heart

Fear of death can often be related to events that have happened in our lives. Speaking about death will often free family members from carrying any resentment or shame from the past.

5 – Get expert help

If you feel unable to speak freely and frankly about worries, it can be overwhelming. Speaking with a professional about grief, fear or conflict can help to find a solution in a safe environment.

Complete Article HERE!

The Best Things to Read and Watch When You’re Grieving

— Loss can be terribly isolating, but art can be a soothing balm that helps you feel less alone.


When my beloved dog, Chuck, suddenly died at the end of 2022, I was hit with a sense of pure, uncut sadness I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Even though I knew, intellectually, that losing a pet can be devastating, I was still unprepared for how horrible I’d feel in the days, weeks, and months following his death. The good(ish) news was that it wasn’t my first grief rodeo—in fact, the end of my marriage gave me something of a playbook for coping with loss, even if that loss looked and felt quite different this time.

A big part of that playbook, for me, involves consuming works of art—essays, poems, novels, movies—that allow me to sit in my sadness. When I’m feeling really bad, I find that accepting that reality actually makes me feel less awful; it helps me remember that the only way out is through, and there’s no way to rush that process. And facing my feelings head-on by engaging with a beautifully observed piece of art helps meliorate the loneliness that goes hand-in-hand with loss. Grief can be very isolating, but art that articulates your pain and reminds you of the existence of other Sad People who understand your sadness on a cellular level can be a soothing balm in a dark time.

Since grief has been at the top of my mind lately—and because the losses of the past three years are truly staggering—I thought I’d round up some of my go-to media here. The following pieces of writing and art aren’t specifically about losing a pet, by the way; they deal with various kinds of loss. (On that note: Just a heads up that there will be mentions of miscarriage, death of a child, and death of a parent in this list.) I hope that my playbook, or parts of it, will help you or someone you love as you move through your sadness.

Articles, essays, and poems

When Things Go Missing,” The New Yorker. This essay is hands-down the most moving and beautiful piece of writing I’ve ever read on the topic of loss and grief. It opens with writer Kathryn Schulz’s reflection on misplacing small items, and then slowly builds into a story about the death of her beloved father. It’s impossible to choose a single line to quote; it is simply a perfect piece of writing that you just have to read in full. (Schulz went on to make this essay the basis of a memoir, Lost & Found, so you may want to check that out as well.)

Children Don’t Always Live,” The New York Times. This essay, by Pitchfork editor Jayson Greene, deals with a level of pain that most of us can’t comprehend: the sudden death of a child. (Greene also went on to author a book about this subject.) He writes about this tragic loss in a way that is equal parts straightforward and absolutely devastating. “When I realized Greta would not live, I wanted to die so purely, and so simply,” he writes. “I could feel my heart gazing up at me quizzically, asking me in between beats: ‘Are you sure you want me to keep doing this?’ But I found I could not give the order.” It’s one I’ve reread several times over the years, and it cracks me open every single time.

I Didn’t Know What to Wear to My Brother’s Funeral,” Racked. This is a lovely and sad essay about losing a sibling in your twenties. “Preparing for my brother’s services felt like preparing for the worst high school reunion, in which I was expected to be on stage to show everyone what Sad looked like,” Katie Cunningham writes. “No one is supposed to be 25 when their brother dies. I should’ve been worrying over whether or not a dress was too slutty for his wedding, not too slutty for his wake.”

DEAR SUGAR #44: How You Get Unstuck,” The Rumpus. In this installment of Cheryl Strayed’s beloved advice column, the Wild author responds to a letter writer who is struggling to feel okay after a miscarriage. I often think about the line “They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died”—because even if you aren’t dealing with this specific type of loss, I think that feeling like you simply cannot relate to the people around you is fairly universal when you are grieving.

For Many Widows, the Hardest Part Is Mealtime,” The New York Times. It can be surprisingly hard to feed yourself when you’re going through a difficult time. Even though losing your appetite due to stress and grief is fairly common, it’s not something I hear discussed very often. This article gives the topic the attention it deserves and touches on the groups that have sprung up to help people nourish themselves and connect socially with others. (Also, if this is resonating with you, here’s an article about easy meals to prepare when you’re sad that I wrote several years ago.)

A Holiday Survival Guide for Sad People,” Pinch of Yum. I’ve referenced this super practical guide a lot over the years; while it’s specifically about coping during “the most wonderful time of the year,” I think it’s helpful for any occasion or time period when you’re expected to have fun and feel joyful.

On This the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic, We Reconsider the Buoyancy of the Human Heart” by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavolie. I first discovered this poem in The Paris Review and just really love it. The narrator asks the Titanic for advice (“I was hoping you’d teach me how to sink, I said. You who have spent a century underwater with 1500 skeletons in your chest”), and the ship really delivers. It’s a very beautiful read, especially if you’ve recently had your heart broken.

Books, TV shows, and movies

When it comes to art for sad times, everyone’s taste is a bit different. Some people opt for laugh-out-loud comedies that help them cheer up and tune out the bad stuff; others turn to beloved favorites that provide comfort through familiarity (e.g., reruns of Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Personally, I am drawn to gentle sci-fi that deals with themes of loss, alternate universes, do-overs, and the ability to wipe certain memories. (Bonus points if it takes place in winter!)

“Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. This short story is the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival, and I think it’s a lot better than the film adaptation. It’s a slowly unfolding story about loss and cherishing the time you have with people; as soon as I finished it, I reread it immediately. You can find it in Chiang’s book Stories of Your Life and Others or read it here.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This 2015 novel, which alternates between the onset of a pandemic and its aftermath 20 years later, is a gripping read that also perfectly encapsulates the loneliness and isolation of a big loss. While the HBO show is a well-regarded adaptation, I’d still recommend reading the book, as the prose is really lovely. (“As Jeevan walked on alone he felt himself disappearing into the landscape. He was a small, insignificant thing, drifting down the shore. He had never felt so alive or so sad.”)

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa. This book takes place on an unnamed island where entire categories of objects start disappearing without warning or explanation, and the work of the memory police is to ensure these items stay forgotten, never to be spoken of again. While that description makes it sound like an intense dystopian thriller, it’s actually quite soft and mournful.

Severance. This gorgeously shot Apple+ series manages to be both a totally engrossing (and extremely well-paced) puzzle box and a really great meditation on work, grief, and the ways we try to compartmentalize and move on from loss. After finishing season one I immediately wanted to rewatch it—it’s that good.

Black Mirror. Each episode of Black Mirror is its own contained story, and several of them deal with loss and heartbreak. I’d recommend season one, episode three: “The Entire History of You” (breakups/divorce); season two, episode one: “Be Right Back” (death/loss); and season three, episode four: “San Junipero” (death/loss/love).

Everything Everywhere All at Once. The only thing I knew going into this movie was that it involved multiverses and would supposedly make me weep. But because it’s so absurd and laugh-out-loud funny, I found myself wondering, with 30 minutes or so left to go in the film, when I was supposed to start crying. Not long after that, my girlfriend and I both found ourselves fully sobbing—like, tears streaming down our faces. If you lean toward the fun/distracting stuff when you’re grieving, but also want some emotional release, I can’t recommend it enough.

Inception. Perhaps you saw this movie when it came out in 2010 and don’t recall it feeling very grief-y; if that’s the case, I would definitely encourage you to revisit it. On rewatch, the complex plot becomes easier to follow, so you can focus on the story, which is about corporate espionage, sure, but also about coping with loss. If your grief has made your life feel completely surreal or like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, definitely add this one to your queue.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This was my go-to “I’m really sad” movie for years, and while other, newer, offerings have slowly taken over the top spot, I will always have a special place in my heart for it. It checks all my boxes (heartbreak, do-overs, wiped memories, snow) and gets extra points for starring Kate Winslet.

You’re not alone in this, and you won’t feel this way forever. Until then, I’ll be thinking of you.

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