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Until the last breath it's all life

October 24, 2017



Not many want to think about last wishes while they are young and healthy. 

“Our mortality is a gift that allows us to fully experience life, that makes us live more deeply, more profoundly,” says Dawn Gross, a hospice and palliative care physician, who hosts a radio show that aims to transforming end-of-life conversations, from dread to dreams.


Gross discusses with guests and uncovers how mortality. She hosts the 'Dying to Talk' radio show that aims to revolutionise how we discuss what to many is still the last great taboo. 



Gross talks about finding hope and beauty in death, noting that death is a way of embracing life. Being able to face our mortality and talk about death is the secret to finding our own very personal, intimate, deep meaning in life, she points out.


“I’ve asked hundreds of terminally ill patients, ‘If I had a magic wand, what would you wish for?’ And not one of them has ever answered, ‘Cure me,’ which is staggering to me.”


Instead, patients respond by asking for something that brings them closer to who they truly are, she said, whether it’s being with family or spending time in their gardens.


“When you’re facing your own mortality, what becomes essential rises to the top and everything else melts away. It’s an extraordinary conversation to get to be a part of,” she said.


“It’s not depressing,” she said, it's sad, and I think to untangle the two is important for people to do."


Gross also teaches teenagers to play Go Wish, a game designed to facilitate conversations around death by encouraging players to identify what would be most important to them if they had a limited time to live. It’s a game Gross finds immensely helpful when talking to the terminally ill patients she cares for as a San Francisco hospice and palliative care physician. Players are asked to prioritize 36 cards, 35 of which describe things people often say are very important to them when they’re dying. The 36th is a wild card. 

The death ed course, which Gross co-created with Jessica Zitter, a Bay Area critical and palliative care physician, has been tested in several Northern California schools. 


“Children are not immune to death and aren’t spared the grief. They just haven’t necessarily been given the permission or the tools to talk about it,” she said in an interview. Teaching this to children is particularly valuable because the younger we are, the more capable we are of using our mortality to create a template for how to live our lives when well.


Gross, who has bachelor’s in psychology and neuroscience, has years of experience supporting patients with life-threatening illnesses.


Her major inspiration was her father, who had always been clear he wouldn’t seek aggressive, curative therapies to prolong his life. When he became terminally ill. He taught her to want to ask those questions and to help the rest of the family try to listen to what he needed.

Read full article here:


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