By Tara Sroka
As we kick off a new year and decade, instead of making resolutions you may not keep, how about getting your affairs in order in case of serious illness and/or death? You may be thinking, “That sounds like a big downer. Why should I care about end of life planning when I’m young and healthy?” The answer is simple – we don’t know when we’re going to die or be faced with a serious health crisis. We don’t usually get warning signs when the end is near – too bad, right?! In all seriousness, we plan for our future with financial advisors and contribute to our 401K but hardly think about our own future medical and end of life needs. To be honest, I wouldn’t have wanted to think about death much before losing my mom in 2013.
Last January while trying to get back into exercise mode (damn New Year’s resolutions) I visited a local gym with aspirations of getting fit. The only thing I did was faceplant on a moving treadmill and give myself a concussion. And yes, all those YouTube videos are super accurate despite being funny. Thankfully I wasn’t too badly hurt beyond the concussion, some bruises and a ruffled ego – but while I was falling down, I actually thought to myself, “I wish I had my sh*t in order in case something really bad happens when I land!”
So what exactly does “end of life wishes” or “getting my affairs in order” mean? This idea can vary somewhat, but it can and should include: filling out your health care proxy, also known as an advance directive (if you can’t make medical decisions for yourself, you designate someone who can speak for you), a living will (ethical will), creating a last will and testament (assets, children guardianship, etc), collecting important documents and papers to be stored in one place, planning your final disposition (what happens to your body after death) and also creating a plan for all your digital assets, which as technology advances will be a really important thing to consider for the future.
As an End of Life Planner I’m all for planning and getting my affairs in order BUT there are still things that I have put off. I’ve planned my funeral down to the last detail but I must confess I had my incomplete health care proxy sitting in a pile of papers “to look at soon” when I had my accident. For some reason I couldn’t get myself motivated to fill them out even though it’s only two pages (two pages people!!) and I knew exactly what I wanted to write. It’s hard to think about what could happen and our own mortality it’s scary as f*ck! I totally get it BUT after the accident, I was finally motivated to fill out my health care proxy, select my agent(s) and write down my health care wishes in case they are needed.
I started my business, Bringing Death Into Life, after the death of my mother. I want to help a younger demographic like myself plan for the future and open the dialogue about death. I believe by having these types of honest conversations we can lessen the fear and bring death awareness to the public. Hopefully in doing this we can help us as a society deal with our own mortality better and possibly handle losses in our lives in a healthier way.
By planning our final wishes NOW and making them known, it will reduce the stress for family and friends in the future. Pre-planning can help you make appropriate decisions while thinking clearly instead of under stress with an illness or with death looming. Planning ahead is one of the greatest gifts you can do for yourself and for your family.
Some benefits of pre-planning:
- Limit the confusion over medical wishes
- Fewer burdens on those left behind
- Empower your family⠀
- Take control of the way you’ll be remembered with your own spin and flair⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Express yourself creatively ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Confront your fear of death and its impact on your day to day life ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
What type of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want to be remembered for? Thinking about these types of questions can be hard but it’s a great exercise to do now while you are healthy. If we take stock of our current lives and evaluate what is important, it will help us see if we need to change course or stay on the path we are already walking. Contemplating our legacy gives us the time to live without regret, which is one of the main things people at the end of life say they have: regrets.
What’s holding you back from planning for your end of life future? Do you need an accountability partner to help you get started? To kickstart 2020 and your future planning, I’m offering Six Degrees Society members a special deal — get a one month 1:1 personal package to get your Advance Care Directive filled out for only $150 (expires 2/17)! Just mention this blog post when you contact me and you’ll be good to go! You can also find free advance care directive forms (living wills come with some but vary) for your state by visiting here.
Tara Sroka is an End of Life Planner who is doing death differently. She’s helping life-loving, creative people explore and plan their end of life wishes ahead of time. She is the founder of Bringing Death Into Life, a business breaking the taboo of talking about death by bringing death into life. Tara guides and supports clients through the options and process of getting their end of life wishes in tip top order. Tara makes death, dying, and ‘what-happens-after’ planning an enjoyable and creative process for her clients to benefit from. Thinking about death helps you live! Contact Tara or follow her on Instagram!