Hospice and the New Year
This time of year is always associated with new beginnings, more so now that we are entering not just a new year but a new decade. Not knowing what comes next many people become optimistic, make resolutions, make big plans and look forward to many events. All of this, though, may seem at odds with hospice care. We are of course focused on living during the end-of-life cycle, but it is a different feeling, a different dynamic, a different world entirely than those who are not on hospice or not living or caretaking for a hospice patient.
What can seem very odd is the notion that it is okay to look forward to things in the new year for families, friends, and loved ones of hospice patients. Those that are at the end of their lives who have accepted this as the final part of their journeys want their loved ones to continue on without them, they want to know not just that they will be remembered but that there passing will not caregivers from living their lives. Of course it probably feels odd, perhaps even disrespectful, to try to plan for the future when you are helping someone cope with the end of their life, and while those feelings of guilt are completely normal to have, it is not something that you really should feel bad or guilty about. The lives of the people around the hospice patient will continue and go on, and it is normal and healthy to look forward to things in the future even knowing that your loved one may not be there to share it with you.
Though it has been said many times, there is no wrong way to feel when facing death. Grab any pamphlet on loss and grief and you’ll likely find the authors, at some point within it, telling you that it is okay to feel relief at the end of life of a loved one, that it is normal to want to plan your life, that it is okay to move on when you feel ready to move on. Your life is important, too, even if you are not at the end of it now, and having plans, having dreams, having hopes is one of the best ways to help get through the pain and sorrow of loss.
Many hospice patients have learned to accept their situation so well that they may be comfortable with helping you to make plans for after they are gone. It might seem odd, but hospice patients sometimes want to know that you will take that trip, that you will keep in touch with your friends, that you will be okay moving on without them when they aren’t there with you anymore. You may feel uncomfortable bringing up future plans with a patient, but if they would like to discuss your plans with you it is okay to do so. It will likely be hard, it will bring up a lot of emotions, but it could also be something that brings a level of comfort to the hospice patient.
All this is to say that while thinking of the new year, the new decade of 2020 and what all that means for you and your life, it is healthy to make a plan. It is okay to think about life after they are gone. And if you like to make New Years Resolutions then by all means make some resolutions for yourself. It is not selfish, it is not cruel, it is not disrespectful, and it might bring a measure of hope to the hospice care patient that you will be alright after they have gone.