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Assembling your support team now is the best way to be prepared for dealing with the death of friends or family, or the end of your own life.

Your team can include friends, family, counselors, and religious or spiritual leaders. Each one has a different role to play in providing emotional support both before and after a death.

Even though most people are hesitant to talk about death, when someone else starts the conversation, nearly everyone has a story that they are eager to tell. By giving them the opportunity to tell their story, you are helping to change the conversation about death and dying.

Getting Started

One good way to start building your team is to send them a link to the DeathWise® website. This opens the door to talking about the steps you are taking to plan for death, and about your desire to form the nucleus of a support team. If they’ve faced the death of a family member or close friend, it’s likely they may be interested in being part of a mutual support network.

Group Activities

Once you have the beginning of a group, there are plenty of ways to get educated and share resources together. At the DeathWise® website you can:

  • Create a Quick Answer Report as a starting point for your discussions.
  • Sit together and create a Personal Map for each member of your group.
  • Complete and sign your advance directives for healthcare. In many states, the members of your group can sign as witnesses on these documents.
  • Choose your healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney.
  • Talk about options for burial or cremation, where you’d like your body to be placed, and write your epitaph.
  • Share ideas for personalizing your funeral or memorial service, and how you’d like to be remembered in your obituary.
  • Discuss what kind of emotional support you’d want to have when you are dying, or when a family member has died.

Branching Out

Once your “personal” support team has worked together to discuss and document everyone’s preferences and wishes, it’s time to build your “professional” support team.

This team can include financial consultants, healthcare providers, legal experts, funeral homes, cemeteries, professional counselors, and religious leaders. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate discounts if several members choose to use the services of the same professional.

A Reciprocal Relationship

When both the personal and professional members of your support team are in place, there’s still more that you can do. For example, you could do volunteer work with a local hospice provider to get first-hand experience in offering support to people who are dying, as well as to their families.

You can also tell others about your support team, popularize the concept in your area, and inspire them to take the first steps in creating their own team. Your personal team can mentor other support groups, providing advice and encouragement as they work through the process of planning and structuring their end-of-life wishes.

The Power of One

No one needs to be alone at the end of their life. And most people don’t want to be. But it can take some foresight and planning to build your team. The time to start is now.

None of us know when we’ll die, or how. But no matter when or how, it’s best done in community. And a community begins with one person with vision, courage and initiative.

That person can be you.

Related Issues
Grief and healing
How to stay active
Needs of the survivors
The person who is dying

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