The Many Faces of MAID: What to Expect When Someone You Know Chooses Medical Assistance in Dying

Personal Stories | February 23, 2024 | Cynthia Clark

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A headshot of author Cynthia Clark and the book The Many Faces of MAID on a wooden table

When my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018, he made it clear he wanted to focus on the quality, not the quantity, of the rest of his life. He wanted to enjoy spending time with me and our children. When his treatment stopped working eight months later, it was no surprise that he chose MAID. 

As a way of keeping family and friends up to date on my husband’s progress, I started a blog that quickly became a very intimate and therapeutic journal. Writing helped me process what was happening to my family and explain to others how it was impacting not just my husband, but me and the kids.

In the years since my husband’s death, I’ve become a volunteer with Dying With Dignity Canada, Bridge C-14 and MAID Family Support Society (MFSS). I give presentations about MAID and end-of-life choices, lead MAID loss support groups and I frequently speak with people about including kids in conversations about death, dying and MAID. [Listen to the Disrupting Death podcast with Cynthia on this topic]

The overwhelming message I’ve heard from people who have supported someone through MAID is that they felt alone and unsupported, and that there were emotions along the way they were not expecting to feel. I started thinking about helping grieving loved ones write their stories about their MAID experience. I wondered if it would help them as much as it helped me. I was curious whether people would want to share their stories once they had them written down? What if we could raise some money for the organizations doing important work in supporting others going through MAID?

I was connected to Carol Cram who thought a MAID support book would be beneficial for people who weren’t able or didn’t want to join a group. Together, we designed a series of writing workshops and invited people to join us in an 8-month-long process of putting pen to paper. At each monthly meeting, participants were prompted to reflect on a dominant or surprising emotion that they wanted to write about for the corresponding chapter of the book. Each chapter of the book focuses on a stage of the MAID process and presents a wide range of emotions, from easy to difficult and from expected to unexpected.

In between workshop sessions, I worked with the writers to delve into their own personal experience more than tell their loved one’s story. That was a real challenge. So many caregivers are used to it being about the patient, but we wanted this to convey real, emotional connections to their raw and uncensored experiences. In every chapter, each writer offers small glimpses into some of the intimate moments and emotions they’ve felt moved to share.

We gifted The Many Faces of MAID: What to Expect When Someone You Know Chooses Medical Assistance in Dying to MAID Family Support Society, a registered Canadian charity. All the proceeds from the book go directly to the organization to help them expand their MAID peer support program. The feedback from folks in the end-of-life health care field has been overwhelmingly positive, confirming the need for such a resource. Every physician, MAID navigator or social worker we present to is enthusiastic about recommending and sharing it with others.

I think what is unique about this book is that you do not have to read it cover to cover, you can pick it up and find the section that reflects the stage that you are in, or the emotion that validates how you are currently feeling. Sort of like a support group, in a book.

Of course, the most meaningful feedback comes from caregivers and loved ones that have found comfort, validation, or companionship within the pages of our book. Last week I received an email through MFSS which warmed my heart. I love knowing that our tears and pain are making the journey a tiny bit easier for others.

“The Many Faces of Maid is exactly what I needed now. I cannot thank you or the fearless writers and editors enough. This has validated so much and given me renewed energy to make these last few weeks the very best they can be as we dance and cry and say farewell.”

Since we published the book in September 2023, I have shifted from being a writer to being a publicist! Our goal is for anyone navigating MAID to have access to the support they need, when they need it, whether that is The Many Faces of MAID book, or a peer to talk to at MAID Family Support Society. Anyone who wants to help with that goal is the kind of person I spend my days trying to get in touch with.

Purchase and learn more about The Many Faces of MAID here

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