Forgiveness at End-of-Life
Text and Illustration By Lizzy Miles, MA, MSW, LSW
Lizzy is a hospice social worker in Columbus, Ohio and author of
Somewhere In Between: The Hokey Pokey, Chocolate Cake and the Shared Death Experience.
She is best known for bringing the Death Cafe concept to the United States.
As a hospice social worker, I have been witness to some powerful reconciliations at end of life: a daughter who forgave her mom for alcoholism, a son who forgave his dad for the divorce, siblings hugging it out.
We sometimes even see the patient's physical symptoms resolve. "Terminal restlessness" may go away when that long estranged loved one finally visits. We see the unconscious patient's brow relax. The effect of resolution in the patient is physically apparent and they die with a peaceful expression on their face.
Sadly, though, we have to acknowledge and remember that sometimes the reconciliation doesn't happen. The daughter will never go to the nursing home to visit her dying mother. The brothers will not put aside their differences despite a shared love for their dying father. The patient will not forgive the grandson who stole from her.
Unresolved conflict can be difficult for some hospice and palliative staff to accept. We know how much better they will feel if they can just let go of past hurts. We know that if they hold grudges, they might hold it for the rest of their lives. Is there something we can do or say to help them understand? READ MORE...