No matter what your age, end-of-life talks are important
Death is a hard topic to talk about, no matter what stage of life you are in.
Final Steps is a local organisation that helps individuals and families confront the subject in a loving and compassionate way.
Beginning tomorrow its members will take part in the Conversation Sabbath, a week where they encourage individuals, families and faith communities to initiate end-of-life conversations with their loved ones.
Based on The Conversation Project, a US initiative led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, it invites clergy to preach and teach the value of having the conversation and then support their community as they have such discussions in private family settings.
“It’s important to emphasise that the conversation is not only about death,” said Jean Flath, one of the group’s volunteers. “It is also about how you want to be cared for in the final stages of your life. Having this conversation ensures that your loved ones are clear about your wishes, should you not be able to communicate it to them in a crisis.
“It allows your loved ones to make decisions without guilt or confusion. It is actually a priceless gift to give them – the gift of peace of mind to the people that matter most to you.”
Final Steps has contacted more than 70 churches across the island hoping to get them involved; the Bahá’í community; the Jewish community; the Muslim community and several Christian denominations are among them.
“It’s an interfaith event and we have been very intentional in reaching out to as many communities of faith as we can to raise awareness of our mission and The Conversation Project in general,” Ms Flath said.
“It’s basically a week where churches can go online and use our resources to support having the conversations with your loved one.”
She is hopeful that people will be receptive to the topic and, ultimately, have the conversation with their loved ones.
“The benefits of the conversation are huge because at the end of the day your loved ones will feel more confident in what your final wishes were and there will be so much more peace during their time of grief,” Ms Flath added.
“Statistically, families that have had these conversations are less depressed. Grieving is a process that is different for everyone, but there is a lot more acceptance if you can have meaningful conversations with the people you love about this topic.”
Final Steps was founded by the late Jasen Moniz. Having been diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to encourage people to be less apprehensive when speaking with their loved ones about death and their final wishes.
“There is sometimes a disconnect in the medical field,” Ms Flath said. “Between the honour code of medicine to fix the problem, we have become disconnected with the fact that we are mortal and there comes a time for all of us to pass from this world.
“Death is not a medical problem; it is a natural part of our existence. So really, there needs to be a change in the way we look at death, because death is a part of life.”
According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, statistics show that 92 per cent of people want to talk to their loved ones about their end-of life care, but only 32 per cent actually do.
“It is a hard conversation to initiate but that one conversation can make all the difference,” Ms Flath said. “Our mission is just to have people start talking about their mortality. This is a journey that all of us take.”
The Conversation Sabbath runs tomorrow through November 1. Final Steps has partnered with the Bermuda Library to host monthly Zoom sessions, The Departure Lounge Chat. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.finalsteps.bm or theconversationproject.org