When was the last time you saw an opening for a BIG conversation of real significance to you? Were you able to leap into the space and begin the work and play of listening, sharing, wondering, questioning, and more? I was just that lucky during the 2022 Appreciative Inquiry Jam.

As the graphic recorder for the event, my plate was pretty full. Happily, the Jam’s schedule included a time for Open Space experiences. I grabbed the chance to offer up this subject for conversation, “Bringing AI to the Death Positive Movement.” I was curious to discover if any of my colleagues at the AIJam would join me in exploring this idea. To my surprise and delight, five of us from around the world gathered for a rich and deep session.

We arrived with different ideas, hopes, and questions for the session. My desire in suggesting the topic was to discover if the 5D design process of AI might be applied to bringing conversations about death, and therefore life, more readily into the public domain. As you see in the graphic recording of our conversation, we approached the subjects of end-of-life care, death, dying, and living from a great variety of perspectives.

Our time together was heart-opening. We have stayed connected and we are meeting to continue the conversation.

What are your experiences in bringing opening up conversations about end-of-life planning, death, dying, and living? I'd love to hear about them.

If you’re interested in reading the article I wrote for AI Practioner, it's here. I hope that you will share your impressions with me!

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Each meeting, we VEOLI members discuss a chapter from a pertinent book. Below is a graphic capture of Chapter 4 from "Awake at the Bedside". The chapter is by Elisabeth Kubler Ross entitled "Unfinished Business and How You Know What You Know". She emphasizes three things in the chapter: trusting your own intuition; helping a dying person address unfinished business; and the importance of dealing with your own unfinished business. During our discussion VEOLI members were particularly interested in how Kubler Ross encourages caregivers to offer dying people a piece of paper and crayons to draw their illness and/or their unfinished business. She shows how that drawing will help guide you in support and treatment. - Susan MacLeod

All of these are phrases while maybe well-meaning; many are platitudes and unhelpful. I would rather comments that are personal and genuine.

I realized that our pat answers were not useful to the grieving family/friends when I attended a recent funeral. My friend’s husband died suddenly and individuals kept asking, “what happened?” As she retold the story, she was crying. I realized that our curiosity has no place at a funeral; instead I believed I needed to be authentic and sincere to provide some comfort to the grieving widow.

When I informed family and friends of my father’s of their passing, many people offered unkind responses. I either had to be on guard or be empathetic to the other person. Either way I couldn’t focus on my grief and needs to work through my grief.

As a grieving family member, it was helpful to have visitors sit with me and listen to what I was experiencing and validating my feelings. I also enjoyed stories that were shared about my dad and what he meant to you on your journey.

My hope is that you’ll read this and think twice before dashing off a quick, easy standard comment like, “Rest in Peace” or “I know how you feel.” Take a few minutes and think about how you can offer your compassion in a genuine manner that supports the grieving person.