Hospice can be a time for reflection on life. Thanks to a technique called "dignity therapy," people receiving hospice care can tell their story, reflect on their lives and then make it into a document that they can pass down to their loved ones, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Peyton "Pete" Dralle found the process fulfilling when he was receiving hospice care for his throat cancer. Lisa Amparan, his longtime partner, told the news source that the experience made him feel like he has gotten something off his plate.
Psychologist Lori Montross interviewed Dralle five months before he died, probing him to discuss meaningful life moments, lessons he had learned and other memories he wished to record and pass down to loved ones, the news outlet reports. After transcribing the audio recordings of the interview, Montross allowed Dralle to edit it to his liking. It turned the project into a 14-page document that was collected into a leather binder.
National Public Radio reports that "dignity therapy" was created and coined by psychiatrist Harvey Chochinov about 10 years ago. He spent years at the University of Manitoba in Canada studying what exactly troubled people most about dying. He found that the main issue that people had with death was the idea that who they were would be entirely gone after they passed away.
"If the idea of having something that will outlast even you matters for patients that are near the end of life, then we need to do something that will create something that will last beyond ... the patient," he told the news outlet.
The editing aspect of the process may seem like it could lead to an untruthful distortion of experiences in a person's life. However, family members who have seen their loved ones underplay or exaggerate certain stories to their liking find that the way the story is being told is the way the person now chooses to see it at that point in their lives.
"The fact is that the last few months of life - because of the awareness of death - create an urgency that facilitates growth and change," psychiatrist William Breitbart told the media outlet. "All of us fail, and the process, the task of dying, is to relieve ourselves of this guilt, whether it's forgiving yourself or asking others to forgive you."