Death-related New Year's Resolutions You Should Keep

Four important resolutions you should make (and really keep!) this year

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According to a study conducted by author John Norcross, about 40% of U.S. adults make New Year's resolutions, which equates to roughly 92 million Americans. Most of these New Year's resolutions involve the usual stuff: losing weight and eating better, getting out and exercising, and improving one's financial health, possibly by finding a better job. Unfortunately, by January 31st, more than half of those people have already broken one or more of their self-improvement vows.

This article offers four death-related New Year's resolutions you should make (and really keep!) this year. These resolutions rarely show up on the typical list of vows people make, but they should because while only 40% of us make New Year's resolutions, it is certain that 100% of us will die.

Create an Advance Healthcare Directive
Who would speak for you if a serious accident or illness left you unable to speak for yourself? If a terrible car crash left you incapable of breathing on your own, for instance, would the medical staff treating you know that you would want -- or would not want -- mechanical ventilation to keep you alive? Would your spouse/partner, children, close friend or anyone else know your desires?

This is merely one example that illustrates why you should create an advance healthcare directive this year -- a legally binding document that you prepare ahead of time in order to specify your medical-care preferences if you cannot do so when necessary.

Become an Organ/Tissue Donor
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), one person joins the organ-transplant waiting list every 10 minutes -- an average of 144 people every day. Unfortunately, roughly 21 people on this waiting list die every day because of the lack of available organ transplants.

Moreover, the gap between the number of people needing an organ transplant and the number of donors has widened significantly in the past decade (123,791 vs. 10,679, respectively, as of December 26, 2014).

Donating organs and/or tissue literally provides the gift of life for those in need of a transplant. In fact, according to HHS, one donor can save the lives of eight other people. HHS makes it easy to sign up in your state to become an organ donor, so please don't let another year pass before you become an organ/tissue donor.

Discuss Your Funeral and Interment Wishes
Because the thought of our own mortality generally makes us feel uncomfortable, most of us fail to formally preplan our funerals, burials, interments and other final arrangements with a provider. According to the 2010 "Study of American Attitudes Toward Ritualization and Memorialization," commissioned by the Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC), even though 66% of the consumers polled would choose to prearrange their own funeral/interment services, only 25% of respondents had actually done so.

Moreover, the latter represents a 9% decrease in personal prearrangements since 1990, the first year FAMIC commissioned this ongoing study.

Given this drop, it follows that most of us also fail to discuss, even casually, our final wishes with family members and loved ones. Not knowing what a deceased loved one wanted for his or her funeral/interment services can add a significant level of stress and grief to that already felt following a death. Therefore, resolve this year to have a simple "chat" with the most significant person in your life -- whether a spouse, partner, child, relative or friend -- about the type of funeral and interment arrangements you would like held after you die. To help you initiate this conversation, visit FAMIC's "Have the Talk of a Lifetime" website for more information and resources.

Express the Unexpressed
Granted, the preceding death-related vows are challenging, but this final New Year's resolution might prove the most difficult of all for some of us, even though it should be something we regularly and routinely do in our daily lives. During the year ahead, resolve that you will tell your family members, friends and anyone else significant in your life at least once that you love and appreciate them. Hearing such heartfelt expressions can prove life altering for some and will help make this new year the best ever for them and, possibly, for you, too.

Additional Resources:
National Healthcare Decisions Day

"Why do we wimp on New Year's resolutions?" January 3, 2013. USA Today. Retrieved December 28, 2014.

"Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network" homepage. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved December 28, 2014.

"Study of American Attitudes Toward Ritualization and Memorialization April 2010. Funeral and Memorialization Information Council/Harris Interactive. Retrieved December 29, 2014. Author's collection.

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