When faced with a life threatening illness, we are forced to confront the inescapable truth of our own mortality. Facing this sort of challenge is something that most of us fear deeply. I believe that our culture leaves us particularly vulnerable to wanting to deny the process of dying. In order to get through each day it seems preferable to not give much thought to our end of life decisions. However, there comes a time for all of us to face the prospect of our own death. This time of confrontation can come in many forms, perhaps you think about it after a close call, or a death of another family member or friend, or because you are making your will. Whatever the reason, there are moments when we must pause, and take stock of the choices in front of us as well as the choices we are making every day. It can be difficult to think about, but at some point ,we will all run out of treatment options. The way we face what happens next depends on a myriad of factors including our personal and financial resources, family support, religious (or faith) identities, and own views on death and dying.
We learn from each other when it comes to death. Watching the choices others make can help us form our own opinions on how we want it to look for ourselves. What questions might we consider when faced with a set of limited options. I find it endlessly fascinating that the questions we ask about death often convey what is most important to us in our lives. In the end what will be our priority? Where will we find comfort? Thinking about it while still able bodied and a bit removed can help us keep perspective when in the thick of all the medical options. How can we all create a space for acknowledging that death might be the outcome but also continue to be hopeful when there is reason to be hopeful about one treatment or another? Finding that balance between hope for making it past a serious illness and acceptance of death is difficult but absolutely necessary.
When faced with end of life decisions or even serious medical illnesses, too often the questions asked are about how to preserve life at the expense of thinking about what gives our life meaning. Perhaps taking time to consider what brings meaning and vibrancy to life can help guide decision-making in times of strife, but it also might help us live better lives before that time comes. How might your life change if you took time to consider what gives your life meaning? How might you change the way you spend your time? If not much would change, how might your frame of mind change if you took time to consider how fleeting life can be? Can we all take time to appreciate the stage of life we are in and the unique joys and challenges that stage of life brings?
In therapy, these are the kinds of questions we might ask to hopefully start to make changes that would bring about more meaning and depth to life. This might also be a useful tool as you navigate any major decision. If you find that you need help answering the questions or feel wholly incapable of even facing them (or putting them into action) please consider contacting us.