How Do You Want To Live While Dying?

When I first meet my client, often a person who’s dying, we focus on the impending death itself. That’s an important element of what we do. Someone needs an end-of-life doula so they can own part of the process. Therefore, we must find out what the client wants and how we can get there. But we must also talk about living. We want to talk about the remaining days specifically. That’s why I ask my clients, “How do you want to live while dying?”

First Things First

To live life to the fullest, it’s helpful for my dying clients to think about some end-of-life realities. You can do this on your own or with professional help. Wonderful therapists and psychiatrists exist to help with these hurdles.

Here’s how I help my client think through some concepts to make the final days or months a more peaceful time.

Accept the Situation

We can call it dying, transitioning, or passing away, but we must call it something. Accepting the situation means talking about it honestly and openly.

Decide What Life Means

Every stage of life requires us to look at things again. As we pass through certain milestones or the natural process of aging, we tend to alter or adjust our views. Most things aren’t at all the way we imagined them. So why would death be any different?

Now that you have an idea about how your life will end, think about what life means, and keep thinking.

Deal with the Practicalities of the Illness

Research what you’re facing and put a plan in place. Ideally, this includes a team of loved ones and medical/emotional support. Our end-of-life experience is better when we’re prepared.

Honor Your Needs

Do you want company, or would you prefer some solitude? Perhaps something in between? Understand that this might change as the days, weeks, and months progress.  


Talk with friends and family. Be clear about what you want so your loved ones can support you in helpful ways.

a slogan written on post it notes posted on a white surface

Participate in Your Own Care

Research and be aware of your illness and options. This isn’t to argue with your doctor, it’s to help yourself and be prepared. If you’ve picked a medical team you trust, follow their advice.

Be Aware Of Limitations

If you aren’t able to eat certain foods or travel great distances, abide by those realities. Listen to your inner voice and the professionals taking care of you.

Make Amends

The dying process is easier if you’ve apologized, in a meaningful way, to anyone who might need to hear it. Remember, this is for you. Not them.

Say Goodbye

Farewells can be done remotely or in person. Sometimes writing letters makes it easier to remember everything you want to say. Doing this months ahead of time usually makes my clients feel so much better. It’s as if a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

Consider Your Spirituality

Make peace with a higher power, whatever you consider that to be.

Talk About Death

Ask questions about any aspects of death, especially those questions that concern you the most. Seek answers from your death doula, nurses, or physicians. My clients are often relieved after hearing our answers.

Make End-of-Life Plans

Finalize advance care directives, estate plans, and financial trusts. Also, choose a power of attorney and guardianship for yourself or your dependents.

Be Gentle with Yourself

There’s no way for people to plan their emotional response to dying. It can be challenging and difficult. Every night, take a moment to comfort yourself. You’re doing your best.

Now. How do you want to live the rest of your life?

This is a process. You might not settle everything above, but that’s okay. If you’ve spent some time doing a lot of the work to get to acceptance, and are planning for the practicalities of death, consider how you want to spend the rest of your life.

Some Questions Need Answers

Maybe you don’t know what to do with the time that is left. That’s fine! Here are some questions that might help you figure out any dying wishes.

What Matters to You?

This is one of those rare moments when it actually is all about you. Think about how you enjoy spending your time.

For some people, it’s about daily visits to a favorite park. Others want to read or be read to and have a list of favorite books.

Some people want to plan a birthday or graduation party before they go. I’ve helped clients do this with weddings and anniversary events.

Who Matters to You?

Do you want to visit with or embrace any loved ones one last time? Do you want your children to visit? What about your favorite pet?

I’ve reached out and coordinated video calls and reunions, no matter who the person is, far or near. Make a wish list. See what you and your team can accomplish.

Are you Committed to a Cause?

Some people feel devotion to their religion, the environment, or other important issues. My clients and I have coordinated fundraisers and even 5K walks for their favorite charities. Other death doulas coordinate parties, online campaigns, or remote events open to the public.

woman meditating in the outdoors

Do You Want to Create Something Beautiful?

Have you ever wanted to write your life story? My clients enjoy creating legacy projects that include important objects and pictures. Others might want to make precious jewelry derived from a special painting or even a fingerprint. Family or friends will consider these items invaluable after you’re gone.

Are you Spiritual or Religious?

Sometimes talking to a priest, rabbi, imam or other spiritual leader is soothing. They often have experience with end-of-life concerns, providing comfort and, for some, answers.

What Deserves Your Time?

Think about how much energy you have and where you want to spend it. That’s your most important currency now.

Inspirational Bucket List Items

Here are some meaningful ways people have used their last months, weeks, or days to the fullest.

– Family or friend reunion

– Vacation

– Special dinner at a favorite restaurant

– A tattoo

Living funeral or memorial service

– Moving up the date of a wedding, bar mitzvah, anniversary party, or other special events

– Road trip

– Hot air balloon ride

As a death doula, I help facilitate these ideas and more.

How do you want to live while dying and get as much joy as you can out of your final days? Use death to live. Contact me at Anitya Doula Services for ways to make your last wishes come true.

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