Before I became a therapist, I worked for years as a hospice social worker. I learned first-hand what it means to support patients and their families through terminal illness, and the inevitable grief process that ensues before, during and after loss.
In Dr. Ira Byock’s book, The Four Things That Matter Most, he discusses the essential tasks which help to facilitate closure as a person nears the end of their life. In my experience, it seems that the first four of these tasks would be extremely helpful not only to those nearing end of life, but also for those who have many years ahead. The tasks as written in the book are:
- Ask for forgiveness
- Offer forgiveness
- Offer heartfelt thanks
- Offer sentiments of love
- Say goodbye
Every day that passes, I see even greater value in taking care of the important relationships in my life. These relationships, like life itself, are fragile and must be treated as such. If I need to ask forgiveness of someone I deeply care for, or offer them forgiveness for whatever the situation may be, it is imperative to start this process ASAP.
Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Likewise, it is equally important to offer thanks to our loved ones for what we are truly thankful for, rather than taking these things for granted. Being able to tell and show our special people how much we love them is both a gift and an opportunity. While I feel that Dr. Byock’s five tasks of dying are of utmost importance in bringing closure throughout the dying process, I also think they can be the ultimate reminder to cherish our precious lives along the way.