The Path to Peace: How to Begin an End of Life Inventory & Review

Peaceful ZenAs people age or try to come to terms with a life-limiting illness, reflecting on life and on what happens after death often becomes the focus of their thoughts. Hospice social workers and chaplains across the country have conversations with patients that all seem to start with very similar questions. People who have recovered from a serious accident or illness also report finding themselves struggling with the same topics.

Regardless of religious preferences or beliefs, experts agree that taking a spiritual inventory and conducting a life review can help both patients and families find peace.

Creating a journal to explore answers to life’s most profound uncertainties can be a positive way to start. Kathleen Dowling Singh, Ph.D. is the author of The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die. She offers the following questions to ask yourself as you begin your spiritual inventory:

  1. Who have I been all this time? Who am I now?

  2. How have I used my gift of a human life?

  3. What do I need to “clear up” or “let go of” in order to be more peaceful?

  4. What gives my life meaning?

  5. For what am I grateful?

  6. What have I learned of truth and how truthfully have I learned to live?

  7. What have I learned of love and how well have I learned to love?

  8. What have I learned about tenderness, vulnerability, intimacy, and communion?

  9. What have I learned about courage, strength, power, and faith?

  10. What have I learned of the human condition and how great is my compassion?

  11. How am I handling my suffering?

  12. How can I best share what I’ve learned?

  13. What helps me open my heart and empty my mind and experience the presence of Spirit?

  14. What will give me strength as I die? What is my relationship with that which will give me strength as I die?

  15. If I remembered that my breaths were numbered, what would be my relationship to this breath right now?

The experts at AARP recommend a life review to help a loved one find peace and strength at the end of life. They recommend looking at photographs – old and new- to help families remember times they’ve shared. Other suggestions include creating a scrapbook, a family biography or a video made up of family events, vacations and happy times. These can all be constructive ways to reminisce and begin to accept the changes ahead.

AARP has put together a video featuring Forrest Church, a minister who was diagnosed with incurable cancer. He talks honestly and movingly about his journey to acceptance of his terminal illness. You can view the video here:

Have you or your loved one taken a spiritual inventory? Has your family found a way to reminisce and remember you would like to share with other families? We’d love to hear your ideas for supporting patients and loved ones.

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