Getting Complete

Key Concept

Many families are fractured; not everyone gets along. Family history may have long-standing feuds. There may be friends that you wish you’d kept in touch with – this is your opportunity!


To identify where you have “unfinished business” and to do what you can to get that elusive “closure.”

So far we have considered the practicalities of preparation for death, but there is very important work to be done to achieve closure in relationships. Before we go there, it is important to realise that the 4 tasks described below don’t have to be left until you are taking your final breaths. How much more valuable will these tasks be if they are done now – when you are fit, healthy and vital?

We have seen elsewhere that people’s sense of well-being is largely determined by the quality of their relationships with others. Now is a good time to heal those relationships with the people you care about.

Task #1: Ask For Forgiveness

We've all done things in our lives that have hurt those we love, either intentionally or unintentionally. We all carry wounds with us that family and friends have inflicted on us and we've all been the inflictor of wounds on those we love. The most important healing at the end of life isn't physical healing, but rather the healing of those emotional wounds.

Asking for forgiveness isn't easy, especially if we feel that we were misunderstood or justified in our actions. But regardless of how you feel about your rift, asking for forgiveness can be a freeing experience and can prepare your relationship for the rest of the work that needs to be done.

Task #2: Offer Forgiveness

This is another difficult task for many of us to complete. Offering forgiveness to someone who we feel hasn't earned it is extremely hard. But it's important to know that forgiving someone we love isn't excusing that person's behaviour. Forgiveness is ultimately a gift we give ourselves; when we forgive, our spirit is set free of anger and resentment.

In addition to forgiving others, it's equally as important to forgive ourselves. You have undoubtedly done things you're not proud of. All of us have done things that we regret, we've made serious mistakes, and we all harbour shameful secrets. But we are often harder on ourselves than others. Even if a friend or family member has granted you forgiveness, you might still find it difficult to forgive yourself. But forgiving yourself is the ultimate act of self-kindness.

Task #3: Offer Heartfelt Thanks

We all have an innate need to express gratitude and feel appreciated. Many of us mistakenly believe that we don't actually have to say the words "thank you" out loud. We assume our loved ones know how thankful we are for all they have done for us. The truth is, often our loved ones really don't know how much we appreciate them.

Offering gratitude for the acts of kindness others have extended to you is quick and easy. It takes little time and effort to say "thank you," yet it can have a tremendous impact on completing important relationships. You can find something to be thankful for in every relationship in your life.

Task #4: Offer your Love

Before you skip over this task thinking it's too "touchy-feely," stop for a moment and think of those relationships that matter to you most. Can you recognize feelings of love for each of these people? Although it may differ from person to person, love for others is the most natural and important of human emotions. But saying the words "I love you" can be incredibly difficult for many people to say.

Some people might be more comfortable expressing love in a written letter or card. Others find less obvious, but equally meaningful ways of expressing love. In what ways can you get creative in expressing your love?

For more information on Closure go to

5 Tasks of Dying

Tie up loose ends

Whatever the issue, the loose ends that need to be tied up, need to be tied up by you.

Many families are fractured; not everyone gets along. History may have long-standing feuds. Do your best to put these to rest so that you can provide that elusive "closure."

By acknowledging the impact of the choices you made on the lives of others, by owning that you did the best you could under the circumstances and by accepting that apologies may be needed, you free yourself and give the power back to others to get on with their lives.

Where do you have issues in your life, private wars that you’ve been fighting for years, embarrassments that still make you cringe?

Some may need a phone call, a visit or a letter (remember those – written on real paper, sent with a stamp by snail mail). Not necessarily a call for forgiveness, but an apology for things having gone wrong and a request to meet or talk to clear the issue.

Others may be moments remembered only by you. Where you know you said something, did something that 20 or 30 years later you wish had never happened. It takes real courage to face it and to forgive yourself for saying or doing what you did. Now is the time to let it go!

Who do you need to “complete” with? Put this information in Preparing for my Death

Have a list of whom to notify

Write a list of the family members, friends or organizations that you would like notified upon your death.

Decide whether you want an obituary to run in any major newspapers and what information you would like to share. Put this information in Preparing for my Death

Write the story of your life

Write the details of your life. Focus on the joy and pain of your life, the people you knew and loved as well the events that shaped your life.

If writing is too slow or difficult, record your story. How often have you wished that you knew more about your father, grand-father and your family history?  It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking stuff – but your life will have been so different to that of your children and their kids – consider the rate of change in all aspects of modern life.

Invite each member of the family to document their favourite memories of you. Create a video collage if possible, so that you can watch people tell their stories. Collect any pictures and papers and place them in a scrapbook for the entire family to witness. Have special moments where you get together and videotape important special events and family gatherings.

Your loved ones will cherish these memories and reminisce about your life to ease the grieving process. Your great, great grandchildren will also want to know who you were.

Discussion Assignment - Getting Complete

If you are going to have to do all this stuff before you die anyway – why not start now? Particularly the Tying Up of Loose-ends.   Choose 1 – a big one. Do it now! Start a habit!

The Loose-end I tied-up was ... and,  this is how it went.

Discussion Forum

Next module : Preparing to Die

Our final moments can be very traumatic; we are facing the greatest unknown and for many, they are facing their judgement day. It is very hard to face this in peace and calm – unless you’ve prepared.

Next Module