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The End Game: Conversations about Life and Death

Thinking about the end actually helps us to celebrate living now

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty
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Throughout life, we celebrate milestones - weddings, births, anniversaries - but the milestone that we are most often afraid to confront is one of the most impactful - death. 

For many people, talking about end-of-life is uncomfortable or even taboo. But sooner or later, we all face death. What fears are holding us back from having essential conversations that will improve our own lives and the lives of those we care about? 

We understand that death is informed by the lived experience and want to create opportunities for the lived experience to be better informed. We have just launched a new series creating public forums to empower people to have conversations about living and dying. We want to foster opportunities for the general public, healthcare professionals, first responders, health science students, residents of long term care, financial planners, faith communities and community organizations to talk about living and dying. We strive to normalize conversations about living and dying in a non-judgemental, non-denominational, upbeat and interactive session. We aim to provide attendees the opportunity to consider their values and receive credible resources regarding advance care planning and end-of-life care.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

In their roles as mothers, daughters and sisters, Elizabeth and Roxanne strive to live life to the fullest, while understanding that planning for tomorrow is an important part of living well today. At a fateful chance meeting, and informed by their careers in health care, they discovered a common passion to empower people to have meaningful conversations about living and dying.

Tell us about your work experience:

C. Elizabeth Dougherty is a hospice palliative care psychosocial clinician and educator and Roxanne Torbiak is a communications professional specializing in health care.

35 comments

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for sharing Elizabeth.  This looks great.  As a health care professional I am very curious and would love to participate!  Are you planning these sessions as general mixed groups, or are you planning to have distinct sessions for some of the groups you mentioned here?  I love that you speak of this as forums on "living and dying", both.  The language itself paints a full picture.  
Do you plan to include any writing exercises in this work?

Best of luck with the project!

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you kindly Bettina. Will post an update after our session next week!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great!

Photo of Nigel Rawlins

Outstanding read!

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Nigel.

Photo of Mark Fletcher

This article is timely and crucial in light of Bill C-14.  We need to confront this difficult topic and have more open and candid discussions at home and in our schools. Thanks for putting this on the table Elizabeth Dougherty! 

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Mark. We want to raise awareness about Advance Care Planning, Hospice Palliative Care and proactive and informed choices regarding end of life - especially in light of pending national legislation regarding Medical Assistance in Dying. 

Photo of Leslie Edwards

Thank you Elizabeth for starting, what is for so many, the difficult conversation! Everyone can benefit from the opportunity to talk about living and dying. I am excited by the launch of this new series and its potential to foster opportunities and dialogue for anyone interested in conversations about living and dying.

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Leslie - I too am excited about the opportunity!!

Photo of Derek Hebb

Elizabeth, you are truly a modern-day Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; I have great respect for the work that you do. Thank you. 

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Derek.

Photo of Tanja Babic

Thank you for bringing attention to these difficult, and often neglected, conversations. 

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Tanja.

Photo of Ross Shafer

I have been fortunate enough to know Elizabeth for over 20 years. Her positive energetic, warm heart and loving personality is the real deal! Bringing light to a sometimes dark time in people's lives is important. There will become a time when I too will deal with loss of a family member and close friend and knowing that having those open conversations now will help. 

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Ross! 

Photo of Bonnie Anderson

Bravo for this article, as an Oncology/Palliative Care Nurse I have often been met with challenging conversations leaving me with the feeling that I should have been able to say something more supportive or said the right thing to foster essential conversations to enhance my patients/family members lives. I feel many would benefit by having access to these sessions so they can improve the lives of their own families/friends. Being able to have those kind of conversations now before any illness will enhance Quality of Life for all

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Bonnie - normalizing the topic and promoting proactive conversations is indeed the hope!

Photo of Lynn Stratten

Well done Elizabeth...such an important topic!

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Agreed - thank you Lynn.

Photo of Iva Page

Thank you for talking about a difficult topic and opening our eyes so we can be better prepared. We need to remember it is a celebration

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Iva.

Photo of tony

Fascinating to read how those few are able to challenge the views of those many.  Thank you Elizabeth for taking on that mountain.

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Tony.

Photo of Sasha Spycher-Sulentic

Thank you Elizabeth for providing a forum such as this, to approach the difficult topic of death which is such an important milestone in all our lives.

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Sasha. While not a new idea, we want to do everything we can to foster these essential conversations.

Photo of Rita Kang

Great idea, look forward to participating.

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Rita! That would be wonderful!

Photo of Dwayne

Fostering meaningful collaborative conversations about living and dying. What a powerful message!

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Dwayne. Let's hope it resonates.

Photo of Helen Carrier

I have had a good life and hope to have a good death. I think it's important to talk about dying because it can alleviate fear your family may be experiencing and hopefully make it easier for them to deal with.
While we can't control the fact that we are all dying, we can make the path easier to travel. This venue creates opportunities for people to celebrate life and prepare for the end.

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Well said Helen - thank you.

Photo of Grace M

Well said: planning for tomorrow so we can live well today.   It's so important to talk about these difficult topics so that our loved ones are aware of our wishes. 

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Absolutely Grace!

Photo of Naheed Dosani

Inspirational piece Elizabeth!

Photo of C. Elizabeth Dougherty

Thank you Naheed.