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Do Your Words Expand or Limit? What I Learned in Writing an Ethical Will

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Several years ago, I became impassioned about the connection between open communication and dying; engaging in conversations with our providers, families members, and ourselves. Essentially, removing the stigma around death to design an end of life and subsequent current life that you love and live with purpose. I shared these thoughts and more in a previous post here.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around anxiety and negative emotions - especially given the year we have all experienced. The moment we run away from these negative emotions - or attempt to ignore - they fester and grow. The finality of death certainly feeds this fear and amongst many of my peers, and even those older, the conversation is limited. Ironically, and as counterintuitive as it may seem, the more we talk about death and sit in the anxiety it may bring up - the less anxious we become. I have read about it, clinical studies prove it and personally, I have experienced it.

I have spent the past few years learning about communication and death and last week, I felt it was time to practice what I preach - to use WORDS as a way to expand my thoughts and consider what it would mean to encounter and prepare for death, whenever it may come. This process proved more challenging than I had expected. Of course, I never thought the process would be simple. From the start, I considered how to capture my message and word choice, therefore, became my biggest obstacle. I wanted to simplify my value set - the set of thoughts I filter the world through. However, I also needed to build the message and choose words which expanded life's possibilities to guide my loved ones in a manner that was open and free rather than limiting.

I see and experience this daily with my clients. When a word is chosen - it can either limit, creating a tunnel around the readers thoughts or it can have an expansive effect, opening possibility, thoughts and questions. And so, much of my time has been focused on word choice - and it has been my greatest lesson thus far.

I am honored to have had this experience because it has forced me to define and simplify my value set - both to guide my actions today but also to expand possibilities for my children after I am gone. Finding the words to bridge the gap between simplify and expansion, while avoiding any limitation, has been the challenge and reward. I hope those I leave behind find comfort in my written word. However, at the very least, this process has illuminated the framework from which I make decisions in my life and for that, I am grateful.

Some excerpts from my ethical will, though I cannot promise they remain forever:

- The key to my happiness lies somewhere between gratitude for my today and excitement for building a better tomorrow

- True independence means having the confidence to take a risk and fail, all while being brave enough to ask for support when needed

- Do not feel tied to a particular process for mourning or moving forward. The time you need and the process you design will be the right one

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