8 Profound Lessons on Embracing Life’s Meaning from Working with the Dying

8 Life Lessons Learned from Working with the Dying Embracing a Life of Purpose

Health practitioner holding the hand of an elderly patient Image by PER images / Stocksy

September 19, 2023

We carefully vet all products and services featured on VoiceAngel using our commerce guidelines. Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.

As the lead neuropsychologist for an interdisciplinary center for individuals diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), I have had many therapy clients die over the years. I have always been honored to have the privilege to sit with my clients during such an important part of their lives.

This role has taught me so much about what it takes to have a peaceful death—and in turn, a meaningful life. These top lessons form a blueprint for living in a way you won’t regret.

Lesson 1: Allow your purpose to change as life goes on

We live in a day and age where the word “purpose” carries so much weight. It’s becoming synonymous with finding your one true love—but let’s be real, who needs just one purpose? In your 20s, your purpose may be to party all night long, but in your 30s, your purpose may be to get a good night’s sleep! Your purposes can change and evolve as you grow, and that’s absolutely fine. And hey, your purpose doesn’t have to be related to your career either. It can simply be enjoying a good cup of coffee or watching your favorite TV show guilt-free. So, let go of the pressure to find THE purpose and embrace the joy of discovering new ones throughout your life.

Lesson 2: Give love away freely and unconditionally

Love is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get! But that shouldn’t stop you from sharing it with others. The ultimate freedom in life is loving people without worrying about what they will do with that love. Spread it like confetti, my friend! The more opportunities people have to love and be loved, the more at peace they are with their lives. So let go of grudges and anger. Instead, be kind, be empathetic, and be the love you want to see in the world. Trust me, it’s more satisfying than that last slice of pizza.

Lesson 3: Begin to see the present moment more often, if not all the time

Let’s face it, we’ve all had those moments where we wished things were different or dwelled on the past. But here’s the tea: life happens, and it might not always be fair. Bad things happen to good people, and it sucks. But dwelling on what could have been or what should have been will only bring sadness and regrets. Instead, focus on the here and now. Open your eyes, embrace the beauty around you, and live in the present moment. It’s like having a front-row ticket to the greatest show on Earth. And hey, if you need a little help, try meditation and gratitude. They’re like the BFFs of finding peace and presence.

Lesson 4: Do things for other people whenever you can

You know what’s scientifically proven? Altruism leads to a happier and more meaningful life. And who doesn’t want a life filled with happiness and meaning? So, take a break from Netflix binging and lend a helping hand to someone in need. It could be as simple as smiling at a stranger or giving a heartfelt compliment. And trust me, in a world that sometimes feels like a circus, these moments of kindness can warm even the iciest of hearts. So, let’s sprinkle some loving-kindness phrases and make this world a better place, one act of kindness at a time.

Lesson 5: Craft a strong routine of healthy habits

Alright, I get it. Sometimes life feels like a never-ending roller coaster of chaos. But guess what? Having a routine can bring a sense of stability and meaning to your life. It’s like having a trusty sidekick who’s got your back. So, grab that calendar, plan some travel adventures, catch up with friends, and make time for activities that bring you joy. Create a schedule that allows you to savor every moment, whether it’s sipping a margarita on a beach or binge-watching your favorite TV series guilt-free. We all deserve a little structure, even in the wildest of rides.

Lesson 6: Learn to have less attachment to ego

Picture this: you’re at a party, and someone spills their drink on your favorite shirt. How do you react? Letting go of ego means not letting such incidents ruin your day. Your body may change, your identity may shift, but that doesn’t define who you are. Embrace activities that don’t solely rely on physicality, so as you age, you won’t be so attached to the selfie-loving, six-pack-wanting version of yourself. Embrace the fluidity of life and dance to the rhythm of who you truly are.

Lesson 7: Tap into your spiritual side

We’re not talking about joining a hippie cult or sacrificing goats under the moonlight. Spirituality can take many forms, and it doesn’t have to fit into a neat little box. Whether it’s through meditation, visualization, or communing with nature, find that connection that makes you feel alive and connected to something bigger than yourself. And hey, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, there’s always psychedelics or MDMA – just remember, always in a therapeutic setting! So, channel your inner hippie or soul-searcher and let your spirit soar.

Lesson 8: Have a conversation with yourself about death every day—even if you’re young

Death. The big D. It’s a part of life, and no, we’re not talking about your favorite deodorant brand. By reminding ourselves daily that we are mortal beings, we can approach death with less fear. Embrace death as the next big adventure, like living in a Netflix series without knowing how it ends. So, say it to yourself every day, “I am going to die someday.” And instead of getting anxious, let it ignite your passion for living a life that makes you feel truly alive.

The takeaway

Life is a journey filled with twists, turns, and a whole lot of surprises. The meaning of life may be different for everyone, just like their preferred pizza toppings. But no matter what, remember to be open to the present moment. Embrace the joy, the laughter, the challenges, and the love that surrounds you. Relax, my friend, because you’re doing great. And always remember, life’s too short to wear boring clothes!