Starting The Conversation

If you work as a doula, you have probably been through the experience of helping someone put together an advance care plan—or at the very least, you have taken time to put some thought into a plan for yourself. Which means you know how challenging that project can be.

One of the first, and biggest, hurdles many people face when they are considering their end of life plan is figuring out a person to name as their medical advocate, for the time when such a person might need to be contacted and consulted about decisions regarding care and other issues.

“I just don’t have anybody,” is not an uncommon statement for a client to give.

Now, usually when a person says something like this, they don’t mean they don’t have anybody  in their life. Maybe they are not close to their family, and they have the idea that only family members can serve in the capacity of medical advocate. Maybe they don’t feel like the people in their life are equipped for making difficult emotional decisions, or the idea of putting that responsibility on someone else makes them feel uncomfortable or guilty. No matter what the case, having a medical advocate for end of life is essential. With some time and thought an appropriate choice can almost always be found.

That’s the good news. The better news is, it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

Well, let’s be honest. The decision doesn’t have to be hard, but making the decision easy for yourself (sorry folks, the bad news is you can’t do this for anybody else) may require some hard work. 

Because if you don’t want to be stuck saying, “I don’t have anybody,” that means making sure you do. It means socializing, cultivating relationships, often—and I’m so sorry to have to tell you this—it means meeting new people. 

The point, of course, is that they won’t stay new. But it’s not an easy thing, in the modern world, to find time for a social life. Most of us don’t interact with very many people outside of our immediate family, who might live hundreds of miles away, or our co-workers—and how many of us are that close to our co-workers?

Some cultures talk about how everyone needs a “third place” in their life. Home is your first place, work is the second. Your third place might be a local bar, an intramural baseball team, a book club, or a quilting circle. It could be literally anywhere you can go to relax, participate in activities you enjoy without the responsibilities of home or work, and most importantly, connect with other people. These are the places we go to find other people who share our interests and our values, where we can express ourselves and spend time with other people who like to express themselves the same way.

And here’s the best news: Reaching out to other people, whether it means taking time to call and chat with family members in distant cities or joining a club to make new friends, won’t just help you find someone you can name as an emergency contact. It will also help you find people to enjoy your life with in the meantime.                                                                                                                

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