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Mopey’s Musings: Is the secret of a good death looking forward or peering back?

July 26, 2019

Cave-painting-by-Rodro-courtesy-of-Pixabay.com-770-770x350

I publish several blogs,( HERE,) (HERE) and (HERE) They all more or less relate to my life even when I am referring to a poem, a political debate or a historical event. Many of the posts are in the form of stories. Given my age and the state of my health, many of them also discuss the problems of aging.

Recently, my friend Terry, a faithful reader, suggested I read an article that examined storytelling and death. He wrote:

Interesting that you have been joyfully doing (this) for years. And your friends love you for it.

When the future is running out, narrating the past helps to prepare
A growing body of work suggests that storytelling creates a sense of mattering.

I post portions of it here for the readers’ edification and in order to include it in my morning contemplations about what it is I should be doing now.

“I began to wonder whether the secret to a good death wasn’t looking forward, but peering backward — whether retrospective examination might be more therapeutic than prospective preparation. I thought of how often I’d focused solely on helping patients navigate the future: how many weeks or months of life they might expect, which procedures they should or shouldn’t consider. These discussions, while important, fail to address what research has revealed about the deeper wants and needs of seriously ill patients.”

“Nearly 20 years ago, a seminal study in the Journal of the American Medical Association explored what patients and doctors feel is most important at the end of life. Many responses were predictable and consistent across groups. Both doctors and patients, for example, thought it was important to maintain dignity, control pain and other symptoms, and have one’s financial affairs in order.”

“But where physicians and patients diverged is telling — and suggests both a missed opportunity and a path to progress.”

“Patients were far more likely to express that it was important to feel that their life was complete, to be at peace with God and to help others in some way.”

“In other words, to feel that their lives mattered.”

“A growing body of work suggests that a powerful but underused method of creating this sense of mattering is storytelling — reflecting on the past and creating a narrative of one’s life, what it has meant, who you’ve become and why…”

“In a 2018 study, researchers assigned veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to engage in either five 30-minute writing sessions in which they reflected on traumatic experiences, or a rigorous 12-week program of cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a first-line treatment for PTSD. The study found that the short writing sessions were just as effective at reducing PTSD symptoms as the resource-intensive CPT program.”

“Other work suggests that the particulars of storytelling matter. Simply looking back and listing life events doesn’t seem to help. It is the constructing of a narrative — exploring linkages, formulating a plotline — that’s critical for arriving at a coherent sense of self…”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/when-the-future-is-running-out-narrating-the-past-helps-to-prepare/2019/07/12/e0b48ee2-91fe-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html

So that has been what I have been up to for the past 10 years — writing those blogs and preparing to die. I guess that beats obsessing about it — although I do that too.

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