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How Has Your Past Informed Your Present?

Dec 25, 2023


Welcome to our last message about using December as a month of reflection. In the first email, we showed you how to take stock in order to move forward. In the second email, we encouraged you to look ahead.


Now, in this last note, we invite you to look back.


Either consciously or unconsciously, your past informs your present. Your encounters with death, dying, and grief, shaped by past experiences of either thoughtful planning or its absence, may have influenced your desires for end-of-life care, influencing your beliefs about what is possible and what is not. As a result, you may have hopes and fears about what might happen (to you and/or the people you leave behind) in the time leading up to your death, at the moment of your death, and after you die.


Spend some time with the following questions either through personal journaling, quiet reflection or in conversation. As you explore, try to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and observations, including any questions that arise.


Learning From the Past: Questions for Contemplation


1. Thinking about your experience with a past death, what was challenging or didn’t go well in your mind about the death, and how did it impact you?


2. Thinking about your experience with a past death, what went well in your mind about the death, and how did it impact you?


Past experience with death and dying simply means a death occurred and you felt impacted.

It doesn’t need to be someone close to you, and you don’t need to have been actively involved with their dying process or any of their after-death care. It doesn’t even have to be someone you know personally.


Four ways being touched by death changes us:


When someone who mattered to you dies, you’re touched by that death. For example:


🌞The death of another person might lead you to contemplate your own mortality, perhaps for the very first time.


🩷Being touched by death can change how you live your life, and it can change your relationships with other people and the planet.


🌈On a practical level, your past experiences with death and dying may have influenced what you want or don’t want to happen when your one day, some day, inevitable death comes.


🍏Every aspect of death has likely influenced your sense of what’s possible and what’s not for any and all aspects of your own death and dying.


When you finish contemplating or discussing these questions, please take a few more minutes to consider:


• How do you feel?

• What are your thoughts?

• What did you observe?

• What did you discover?

• What questions do you have now?


If you’re looking for more, there are 3 ways to explore all of Willow’s 7 Tools for Making Sense of Life and Death.


Self-Study On-line Program

For $77, work at your own pace and let us walk you through the 7 Tools for Making Sense of Life & Death workbook. 

  • Includes the digital workbook, and resource sheets and additional tools not found anywhere else.


7 Tools for Making Sense of Life & Death print workbook

USD $23

This includes shipping to the US or Canada.


7 Tools for Making Sense of Life & Death fillable, digital workbook

USD $17

Get immediate access


Whether you’re aware of it or not, your past informs your present. The key is to increase your awareness of how you’ve been touched or impacted.


With love and wishing you a happy New Year!

Reena (she/her)

Co-founder of Willow End of Life Education and Planning


Debra (she/her)

Program Manager

Willow EOL Educator® Program