Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why the AP Stylebook’s rules on how to talk about suicide don’t work for me.

Torie Bosch's essay on the words she uses to talk about her parents' suicide are important, and have some insights to help us understand everyone who deals with grief and loss. 
 “Commit suicide” is clean and clinical. There are no cartoon characters or inappropriate emotional responses. It is clear, matter of fact, free of emotional valence. It neither condemns nor romanticizes. It describes what happened, and, importantly, acknowledges the autonomy of the person who did it without condoning the action—because my parents each made a decision. It’s a decision that I loathe, a decision I spent years of my life pleading with my mother not to make, one made under the influence of a pernicious mental illness that she worked incredibly hard to live with—but it was still her action.

Why the AP Stylebook’s rules on how to talk about suicide don’t work for me.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Laurie Kilmartin’s New Book ‘Dead People Suck’

Laurie Kilmartin's new book is Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed, inspired by her experience grieving the death of her father in 2014.
Death is not for the faint of heart, and sometimes the best way to cope is through humor. Kilmartin made headlines by live-tweeting her father’s time in hospice and her grieving process after he passed, and channeled her experience into a comedy special, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad. Dead People Suck is her hilarious guide to surviving (sometimes) death, dying, and grief without losing your mind. With chapters like “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn,” “If Cancer was an STD, It Would Be Cured By Now,” and “Unsubscribing Your Dead Parent from Tea Party Emails,” Laurie Kilmartin guides you through some of life’s most complicated moments with equal parts heart and sarcasm.

This Was Not the Good Death We Were Promised - The New York Times

This family did everything right.  They had honest conversations and planned for palliative care to make the dying man as comfortable as possible.  But it turned out that the promises of care were contingent on staff availability.

"[A]t the very end, confronted by a sudden deterioration in my father’s condition, hospice did not fulfill its promise to my family — not for lack of good intentions but for lack of staff and foresight....At the end of life, things can fall apart quickly, and neither medical specialist nor hospice worker can guarantee a painless exit. But we were told a palliative expert would be at my father’s bedside if he needed it. We were not told this was conditional on staffing levels....Kaiser Health News discovered there had been 3,200 complaints against hospice agencies across the country in the past five years. Few led to any recourse. In a Medicare-sponsored survey, fewer than 80 percent of people reported “getting timely care” from hospice providers, and only 75 percent reported “getting help for symptoms."

This Was Not the Good Death We Were Promised - The New York Times

The Greenest Things to Do With Your Body After You Die | The Amateur's Guide To Death & Dying

"The green burial movement is championing sustainability and a more natural approach to death. Forgoing the embalming process, they advocate biodegradable coffins made of untreated wood, cardboard, or wicker. Shallower graves expose the body to the layers of soil most richly populated with decomposing organisms. Burials take place in protected, natural burial grounds outside urban areas, with graves marked by GPS or simple carved stones. It’s a move back to the more ancient burial traditions practiced until the Civil War (and still favored by Jewish and Muslim communities)...Green burial is all about reconnecting death and nature, explained Cunningham. She pushed up the sleeves of her earth-colored cardigan and flipped through a catalog of green-burial products. Besides woven caskets, there are soluble salt urns and seed-filled scattering tubes. There’s even the option to transform the remains of a loved one into a hand-crafted piece of amber jewelry. Products can be adorned with photographs, drawings or hand-written messages. It’s less rigid and more personal, [Amy] Cunningham said. Taking part in the burial process is also encouraged. Families can dig or fill graves and plant memorial trees. “Having these kinds of alternative burials helps families feel they are doing something innovative and creative,” explained Cunningham, who had just returned from the latest green burial convention in Tampa. “It’s an experience, it’s not the conventional funeral and families look back on it as something uplifting.”"

The Greenest Things to Do With Your Body After You Die | The Amateur's Guide To Death & Dying

Holly Butcher, dying of cancer, wrote an open letter

"Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises. Listen to music.. really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best. Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that. Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay? Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not. Work to live, don’t live to work. Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy. Eat the cake. Zero guilt. Say no to things you really don’t want to do. Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life.. you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay. Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have."

Holly Butcher dying cancer open letter:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too? - The New York Times

Of the many small humiliations heaped on a young oncologist in his final year of fellowship, perhaps this one carried the oddest bite: A 2-year-old black-and-white cat named Oscar was apparently better than most doctors at predicting when a terminally ill patient was about to die. The story appeared, astonishingly, in The New England Journal of Medicine in the summer of 2007. Adopted as a kitten by the medical staff, Oscar reigned over one floor of the Steere House nursing home in Rhode Island. When the cat would sniff the air, crane his neck and curl up next to a man or woman, it was a sure sign of impending demise. The doctors would call the families to come in for their last visit. Over the course of several years, the cat had curled up next to 50 patients. Every one of them died shortly thereafter. No one knows how the cat acquired his formidable death-sniffing skills. Perhaps Oscar’s nose learned to detect some unique whiff of death — chemicals released by dying cells, say. Perhaps there were other inscrutable signs. I didn’t quite believe it at first, but Oscar’s acumen was corroborated by other physicians who witnessed the prophetic cat in action. As the author of the article wrote: “No one dies on the third floor unless Oscar pays a visit and stays awhile.”

This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too? - The New York Times:

Judy MacDonald Johnston: Prepare for a good end of life