The Five Tasks of Dying as a Template for Living

As a former hospice social worker, I have plenty of experience helping patients and their families cope with terminal illness and face eventual loss.  In Dr. Ira Byock’s book, The Four Things That Matter Most, he discusses the vital tasks which are ultimately helpful in facilitating closure as a person nears the end of their life.  In my experience, it seems that the first four of these tasks would be extremely helpful not only to those nearing end of life, but for those who have many years ahead.  The tasks as written in the book are:

  1. Ask for forgiveness

  2. Offer forgiveness

  3. Offer heartfelt thanks

  4. Offer sentiments of love

  5. Say goodbye

As a DBT therapist, I see the value in taking care of important relationships in my life.  These relationships, like life itself, are fragile and must be treated with gentleness. If I need to ask forgiveness of someone important in my life, or offer them forgiveness for whatever the situation may be, it is imperative to start this process as soon as possible.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Likewise, it is equally important to offer thanks to our loved ones for what we are truly thankful for, rather than taking these things for granted. Being able to tell and show our special people how much we love them is truly a gift and opportunity.  While I feel that Dr. Byock’s five tasks of dying are of utmost importance in bringing closure throughout the dying process, I also think they can be extremely helpful in helping us live our best lives along the way.