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Stanford Doctor's Last Letter Project Helping Dying Patients Get Closure

KCBS_740PALO ALTO (KCBS) -- A Stanford doctor is helping her patients write a last letter to loved ones as a way of healing emotional pain and minimizing regret at the end of life in what's known as the Stanford Friends and Family Letter project.

Dr VJ Periyakoil started the project as a way to facilitate meaningful conversations between her patients at the end of their lives, and their loved ones.

"This is something that we need to do at various points in our life," Periyakoil told KCBS.

She found they had powerful things to say to each other, but used her as a mediator.

She came up with the idea of a letter - and created a template that allowed people to acknowledge seven life review tasks from acknowledging important people in their life, remembering treasured moments, apologizing for causing hurt, forgiving those who hurt them, saying thank you and I love you and sometimes goodbye.

"By talking about death, you're making it a reality," Periyakoil said.

But the letter is just not intended for the dying.

Periyakoil says it doesn't have to be a last letter, but a lasting letter to say what's important in many phases of life.

The template is available online in eight languages.


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