The Importance of Family Communication at End-of-Life

| By Jodi Horton

How would you respond if told that you had six months or less to live? What would you tell your loved ones? What would be most important for you during this time? When we face our mortality, it becomes clear that life is not held individually, but instead, it is shared with those we love. This time is precious and sacred. It is often natural to want to protect our loved ones from grief and sadness. However, the way to support ourselves and our family is to open the channels of honest communication with one another and to become vulnerable not only to the sadness, but also to the healing power of love shared.

As a hospice chaplain, I am privileged to be part of these vulnerable moments. These conversations require intention. Space must be created and trust established for honest dialogue and open communication. And, in our complicated family relationships, we sometimes need support to find the right moment to share our true selves with one another.

The hospice social worker and chaplain are often invited into family discussions. It begins with the intention to call people together in order to support one another. With the hospice patient’s permission, we begin with the basics. Is everyone aware of the most recent medical information, diagnosis and prognosis? What questions do people have about why hospice is providing care? Is this what the patient wants? How does this decision affect loved ones?

These basic questions open the door for deeper and more personal discussions to take place. What is most important to our loved ones at this time? What do we want each other to know about our love, our forgiveness, our sadness, our faith, our hope and our fears? By listening with new ears and by our willingness to be affected by what each other shares, we can find healing in our most difficult relationships and in our grief. During this time stories are told, memories shared, laughter is found, and tears released. This can be the most important medicine any of us will ever receive. It is a medicine for our hearts, minds and souls. And it can be what is needed to bring wholeness to the ones we love the most.

By David Fife, Hospice Chaplain

If you or someone you know in Pima County or southern Pinal County would benefit from hospice care, contact Casa de la Luz Hospice at (520) 544-9890 to schedule a free evaluation by one of our registered nurses.

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