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Life Lessons: Talking about death

Published On: Dec 11 2013 05:00:00 AM EST

It's a conversation many of us avoid: dying and end of life wishes.

It's a conversation many of us avoid: dying and end of life wishes.

But, after dealing with her mother's death, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ellen Goodman founded The Conversation Project.

"We need to have these conversations early and at the kitchen table and not in the ICU," Goodman says. "The conversation can reduce unease and uncertainty."


Martha Hayward and her family grappled with their mom's care, and after several years of being in and out of hospitals, they finally had a conversation about death.

"When my mother died, we were given-the word I can use- is peace," Hayward explains.

As a single woman, Patricia Knight worried that no one in her family would know her true wishes, so she called a family meeting.

"Once I got going, it was actually relaxing and it was a little bit cathartic," says Knight.

The Conversation Project created a starter kit that allows people to fill out very specific wishes and give it to loved ones.

Some of the questions you're asked to think about:

What is most important to you in your last phase of life?
Who do you want to be involved in your care?
Who do you want making decisions for you?

Maureen Bisognano says that's what happened when her family fulfilled her 17-year-old brother's wishes to die at home.

"There was a tremendous sense of relief that he had expressed his wishes," Bisognano says.

Goodman says you are never too young to have the conversation and if a child is facing a serious illness, parents should talk to their children about wishes as well.

For more information and to get the starter kit, go to