There was a time when I thought that death acceptance was the opposite of death denial. I also thought that there were two signs of death denial: fear of death and dying, and strong attachments to life and living. My thinking was that if I didn’t have fear and anxiety about death, and I could sever my strong attachments in life, I would live peacefully with the full acceptance of death.
Identifying your core values—the second tool in Willow’s 7 Tools for Making Sense of Life & Death workbook—is a critical part of the foundational work of end-of-life planning. Seeing your values reflected in your end-of-life plans also keeps you accountable to living the life you want. Let me share how this works for me.
The first step is to identify the values that guide your living, and for most people, that’s not an easy task. It takes time, reflection and can be aided by some guidance and good tools. You’ll find all of those in Willow’s online program based on the 7 Tools for Making Sense of Life & Death workbook. Using the tools, I identified connection as one of my core values.
Values-based end-of-life planning has the power to transform the here and now.
With “connection” in mind, I realized that I want my dying and how I’m cared for after my death to create a sense of village among my people and community. The insight that brings tears to my eyes today is that the village I yearn for in my death is not as present today—in my day-to-day life—as I wish it were.
I also see how my life today doesn’t express the integration of shared connections I desire. It feels like there are too many silos of communities and relationships. My family (including my husband, daughter, father and brother) for example, is a bit of an island to itself and I worry that those people will feel left out of the activities I hope transpire after I die.
All that matters in the end matters now.
Through this work I’ve come to realize that I can mitigate the risk of people feeling left out of my after-death care by taking conscious steps to bring my family and friends together more often now, while I’m still alive. This insight also inspired me to get involved in the development of a cohousing project in my community that my family and I intend to live in. If I want a village “then”, I need to create a village “now”.
What about you?
What are your core values and how do they show up in your end-of-life planning or in your life today?