Hennessey pllc &
Trial lawyers and dispute resolution
Skilled, experienced, effective and responsive
Telephone: (206) 292-1770
316 Occidental Ave. So., Suite 500 - Seattle, WA 98104
her to come home. Pain management
prevented this, but my contacts with
hospice put me on their mailing list. I received numerous articles and pamphlets
from them that proved to be very valuable perspectives on death and dying. A
friend gave me a book on transitions in
life. Read about the perspective of others on what you are experiencing.
lawyers want life to unfold in an orderly
way, with our procedures and processes
superimposed over the lives and affairs
of our clients. The death and dying process cannot be expected to be linear or
orderly. Expect the weeks and months
before and after your spouse’s death to
be a roller coaster.
ago, Gail and I agreed to be organ donors at the time of death. This means
that after you say your final goodbyes,
the organ harvesting process immediately begins. I was unprepared
for this. The surviving spouse is subsequently interviewed about the deceased’s health and lifestyle. Many of
these questions border on the surreal.
I was not prepared to be questioned
extensively hours after my wife’s death,
about whether she was ever exposed to
HIV or AIDS, or whether she had ever
used IV drugs recreationally.
I was seldom left alone in the weeks
following Gail’s death. At the time I
thought this intrusive, in part because
I fear we lawyers can have difficulty
leaning on others. Letting your family and friends provide the emotional
support so desperately needed during
a terrible time like this is invaluable to
the healing process.
I was fortunate that my
law partners allowed me to take my sab-
batical a year early, so that I was able
to get away and think through what my
life would be like without my dear wife.
I went away for a month and contem-
plated what I wanted to do with the rest
of my life. I elected to go back to my law
firm and resume my law practice. A rad-
ical life change like the loss of a spouse
may prompt a career change, extended
leave or sabbatical, or even retirement.
When I returned
to the office, several of my litigation
partners “backstopped” me on all of
my cases. We used a team approach
to decision-making, tactics, and case
strategy. These steps were of critical importance in the process of reengaging in my professional life. Law
firms and offices should have a plan as
to how to backstop a colleague in times
of crisis. I work in a mid-sized and supportive firm. Solo and small firm practitioners should consider a network of
professional colleagues to provide this
important backstopping during the
first months back to work.
friends had expectations about what
I should do in the months following
Gail’s death. A good friend suggested I
make no major decisions for one year,
which generally proved to be good ad-
vice. However, as in every other facet
of life, there are exceptions to this gen-
eral rule. My three adult children and
several close and caring female friends
expressed discomfort with the idea of
me dating. Be pragmatic about what is
best for you.
As the Baby Boomer generation
contemplates getting older, the stark
realities of aging and dying come into
sharp focus. The devastating effects of
the death of a spouse are far-reaching.
Forethought in these areas can soften
the devastating impact during this difficult time. NWL
32 years, 27
of which have
been at Ryan,
downtown Seattle. He is past chair
of the firm’s Litigation Practice
Group, and in September 2015 was
elected its managing director.
1. T.H. Holmes and T.H. Rahe “The Social
Readjustment Rating Scale,” Journal of
Psychosematic Research, 11:213, 1967.
THE DEATH AND DYING
PROCESS CANNOT BE
EXPECTED TO BE LINEAR