This Therapist Wants to Make End-of-Life This Therapist Wants to Make End-of-Life Planning FunPlanning Fun

93-year old psychotherapist Margie Jenkins wants you to plan a great party for the people you love, do what you’ve been putting off, and live “bodaciously.” The only catch? You have to think a lot about death first. That’s because Jenkins has seen many clients confront end-of-life issues and bereavement unprepared. To help others and to reframe to process as an opportunity to focus on the positive, Jenkins wrote a book called “You Only Die Once: Preparing for the End of Life with Grace and Gusto.”

There are more steps in the end-of-life process than you might expect. Here are some of the recommendations in Jenkins’ book.

Acknowledge death. This may be the highest hurdle to get over. Thinking about death can upset you, and talking about death with loved ones can upset them. However, Jenkins argues that leaving newly bereaved loved ones to sort everything out on their own makes their loss more traumatic.

Decide what you need to do before you die, for yourself and for your family after you’re gone. That can be anything from going through old keepsakes to repairing estranged relationships.

Get your legal and financial house in order. This is what most of us think of when we think about end-of-life planning, and it’s very important. Your estate planning, advance directives for healthcare, and other documents will be your family’s roadmap during a stressful time.

Decide where you’d like your possessions to go. Jenkins and her husband arranged a home tour for their adult children to choose a few things they want to keep after their parents are gone. The tour gave Jenkins and her late husband a chance to talk about family photos and keepsakes.

Think about how you want to be remembered and perhaps write letters to the people you love. My great-aunt did this for me. After she passed away, my mother gave me the two-page handwritten autobiography my great-aunt had prepared for me, outlining the story of her life in her terms. It’s among our most cherished family documents.

Choose your own funeral home and decide whether you want a casket burial or cremation. This takes a huge task off the shoulders of your family and allows you to shop around so you get what you want without feeling pressed for time.

Plan your “going-away party.” You get to decide the location, the ceremony (if any) and what kind of remembrance you want. Do you want a traditional church service? A wake and a family night out on the town? A gathering of the musicians you know to play and sing your favorite songs? The choices are up to you.

Jenkins has experienced the results of good end-of-life planning firsthand. She recently lost her high school sweetheart after 70 years of marriage. “We had talked about what we wanted. The kids supported it and they planned the memorial service. I knew what to do. Our kids knew what to do,” she told the Texas Tribune. The loss of a loved one is never easy, but proper planning can make it easier for those left behind to put one foot in front of the other, carry on, and enjoy the memories of the person they loved. Learn more about hospice care and choosing a funeral home at

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


  1. Carol Beavers November 22, 2016 Reply

    While most of us do not want to think about our own death, this article is actually a joy to read. Having lost four grandparents and both parents, I know the anguish we go through at the time. Telling (and writing) what you want after your death will relieve loved ones of many difficult decisions–and possibly damaging family arguments.

    My father was a fisherman and always said, “I want to buried where the big fish are.”
    A dear friend of mine arranged for a boat to take us out into the Gulf Stream where we scattered his ashes. It was a joyful experience. My mother (who never wanted to be “any trouble to anyone”) was also cremated. She said, “Please put my ashes in the doggie graveyard” where we have buried years’ of beloved pets. I said I’m not going to put you with the dogs. But several of her pets were buried there and she continued to insist. We live near a lovely old cemetery and I scattered some of her ashes around a lovely tree with spreading branches. And brought home the rest and buried them in the doggie graveyard. All is well!

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