A round-up of some of the year’s most thought-provoking and inspiring pieces on the end-of-life experience.

The relevance of the proverbial five stages of grief was challenged, and new aspects of our relationship with grief were explored. Research on dying furthered our understanding of consciousness and connection at the end of life. Advancements in policy and healthcare delivery continued to transform how people are supported through illness and the end of life.

1. Mary Oliver on Grief and Loss

At the beginning of the year, award-winning poet Mary Oliver died from lymphoma at the age of 83. Much of Oliver’s work explored spirituality and mortality through the lens of the natural world. Oliver on death: “When it’s over, I want to say all my life / I was a bride married to amazement.” (When Death Comes1992)

2. Doctor and Nurse Go Mobile to Provide Palliative Care to Victoria’s Homeless

Hospices and small interdisciplinary teams are going mobile with their services in order to provide palliative support to vulnerable populations. From Calgary’s Allied Mobile Palliative Program (CAMPP) to the thoughtful efforts of several hospices in Washington state, homeless are shown dignity and compassion when they need it most.

3. Death and Learning to Understand it

Dying is a social event not a medical one says palliative care physician Dr. Kathryn Mannix. Taking time to understand the dying process can bring us comfort and help us be more present as a loved one nears the end.

4. Kathy Brandt, a Hospice Expert who Invited the World into Her Own Last Days with Cancer, Dies

Kathy Brandt exemplified what it means to live life on your own terms after a terminal diagnosis. Kathy, along with her wife and partner of 18 years, Kimberly Acquaviva, and their son Greyson, captured their experience with the end-of-life on Twitter and Facebook — educating countless people on death and dying in the process.

5. Working with People who are Dying Teaches You so Much about how to Live

In this reflection, a neuroscience student at Emory University explores end-of-life communication and behavior. Of her work with hospice patients she says, “We found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.”

6. House Approves Hospice Education Act

In October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA). With the goal of increasing palliative care access for all Americans, the bipartisan-supported bill would establish programs that provide training in palliative care and hospice. PCHETA must still pass through the Senate to become law.

7. ‘Cuddle Beds’ Bringing some Physical Comfort to End-of-Life Patients

Our need for intimacy often grows as we near the end of life, yet hospital beds create a literal barrier between patients and their family. These oversized cuddle beds are making it easier for families to make physical contact with a dying loved one.

8The Death of a Friend can be as Traumatic as Losing a Family Member

Traditionally, grief associated with the loss of a friend hasn’t been commonly acknowledged and has been considered less legitimate than other types of grief. New research reveals that the death of a friend can have just as much of an impact on our health and wellbeing as that of a romantic partner or family member.

9. End of Life Dreams Studied at Hospice Buffalo

What do we see before we die? It’s a question Hospice Buffalo explored in 2019. Documenting the dreams and visions of the dying, the organization found that many see the people they miss the most — providing comfort to patients as they near the end.


What articles about the end-of-life experience resonated with you this year? Please share in the comments below.