5 Steps for Successful End-of-Life Planning Conversations

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Have you ever started talking about some aspect of end-of-life planning with family or friends and heard, “Oh, we don’t need to talk about that yet, dear,” or “Stop being so morbid!”

Or maybe you’ve been wanting to talk with someone in your life about planning ahead but you’re lost about how to even broach the topic. You have ideas in your heart and mind about how your people are going to react, and it’s just too uncomfortable to go there.

End-of-life planning conversations are powerful gateways to connect.

Talking about death in a death-phobic and death-denying culture can certainly be a challenge. At the same time, end-of-life planning conversations are powerful gateways to connect meaningfully about life and death. They also open the door for end-of-life plans that reflect who and what matter most.

After spending more than ten years leading peace-building programs for Palestinian and Israeli youth, I’m quite adept with making difficult conversations work. I applied that experience and some best practices from years of conflict-resolution and communication training to create a tool for end-of-life planning.

Willow’s 5 Steps for Successful End-of Life Planning Conversations is an interactive, fillable tool to help you start—and keep having—fruitful end-of-life planning conversations. The steps include:

STEP 1 Set your intention
Before you bring up the topic, it’s important to reflect on what you hope to get from your talk. Setting an intention for yourself and the conversation will make a big difference to how the conversation will go. In this step you consider the impact the conversation will have on both of you and your relationship.

STEP 2 Identify your concerns
When you anticipate that the conversation will be challenging, simply stating your concerns before you start almost always reduces the tension for all parties. This step helps you figure out what you may be worried about and how to phrase it.

STEP 3 Create the context
One way to bring up an “unpopular” topic is by sharing what’s prompting you. Step three guides you to think about what conditions or situations led you to want to do some end-of-life planning.

STEP 4 Explain your motivation
In this step you’ll find a list of positive benefits that may result from having the conversation, and another list of negative consequences that may arise from not having the conversation. You can check off the ones that resonate so that you can share them with your person.

STEP 5 Reflect on your conversation
No matter how well your conversation went or how challenging it was, this is where you’re prompted to reflect on how you feel and acknowledge what went right and what worked well, so that you can reinforce those elements for the next time.

If you’ve had any of those “don’t-even-go-there,” negative experiences talking about end-of-life planning—or any other challenging topic—or you’ve been avoiding these discussions altogether, try out this interactive, fillable tool and breathe a little easier. 

No matter how it goes, once you’ve tried it, we’d love to hear from you! Let’s learn from each other’s experiences.

What about you?

How do want to feel after having that conversation?

What went right and what would you do differently next time?

Breathe a little easier with 5 Steps for Successful End-of-Life Planning Conversations.
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End-of-life planning conversations are a powerful gateway to connect.
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