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Happy Anniversary EndNotes

This is a self-serving blog post. Let's get that out of the way right now. But this week marks the first anniversary of our EndNotes column. Cathy and I sent in our first two columns to McClatchy-Tribune Information Services the first week of March 2011.

People in the newsroom call this the “death blog” and so some thoughts on some lessons learned after a year of death blogging and columnizing.

  • The people we hear from most after columns run are people in their 50s and above, unless as younger people they have experienced a great loss. No surprises here.
  • Grief experts are pretty unanimous that the person grieving runs the show. We all might have ideas on how best to grieve and what worked for us, but grief is so individual that the best response is to respect where the griever is at the moment.
  • When you are at a loss for words, a sincere “I'm sorry” works best.
  • Don't counter a grief story with one of your own. Just listen.
  • The people we've interviewed and books we've read this year reinforce one regret most people hold at the end of their lives. They wished they'd taken more risks. It doesn't mean skydiving, necessarily. It means stretching the boundaries of personal comfort, personally and professionally. And saying yes to new things that challenge you.
  • So many things can kill you or change your life forever through illness that it's best to pretend none of them will get you in the end. The mental placebo effect.
  • We don't get a lot of questions for our column from readers. We're hoping for more. The best questions have come from newsroom colleagues, family and friends.
  • In the long run, we're all dead.

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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