Death is the only universal experience. Shared by every living being, no matter your gender, political background, or species. As we live longer, we experience the death of others as well. Yet, even as death is a reality all around us, we rarely know what to do when it comes time to die. A few folks go quickly, unexpectedly. But for many of us, death will not be quick or easy. Therefore, we should give some thought to how to accept death, and deal with it, before a diagnosis.
One Chance to Get it Right
When we die, that’s it. We don’t get an opportunity to do it over. As a death doula, much of my mission is to help people accept dying and death while they’re still very much alive. Fear of death, death anxiety, and denial don’t do anyone any good. Quite the contrary.
In our final months or days, this unhealthy attachment to life at all costs can be damaging.
Get proactive about how you can cope with a diagnosis. You can find ways to accept that life will eventually end and also that you will lose people you love. No one can plan with any certainty how they’ll feel in the moment. But we can all put a plan and support system in place to handle whatever comes our way.
Why is Death So Hard to Accept?
Some have the temperament or cultural background to accept that we will die. They believe death is a part of life and accept it without anxiety. Others find the whole idea of death difficult to understand or accept at all.
Nothing is written in stone, certainly not our thoughts. We change and grow, and our ideas change along with us. On an intellectual level, most people understand that talking about death won’t hasten it.
At the same time, people postpone these conversations because they’re just too painful to think about.
Name Your Fears
Hospice is an invaluable service designed to alleviate physical pain and help someone get comfortable during the dying process. Your medical team will use medicine to treat pain, encourage rest, and help with anxiety.
Hospice, death doulas, and other caregivers will use non-medical ways to achieve emotional and spiritual comfort.
Involve hospice early, so they can get ahead of whatever you might need. This is preferable to waiting until you’re in pain and then hospice has to scramble to get set up, assess your needs, and address your discomfort.
Chosen interventions, when they should start, and how long they’ll be used will depend on you. This is your experience. Not your partner’s, friends, or loved ones. Therefore, know what you want and express those wishes early and often.
Fear of Death
Many people fear death and dying. That fear is lessened if you’ve done three important things ahead of time. Review your life and determine if you need to say:
1) I’m sorry.
2) I forgive you.
3) I love you.
This is a great exercise throughout our lives. Don’t wait until you’re dying to do it.
People tend to accept the end of life when they have fewer regrets. Saying I’m sorry to someone you’ve wronged and making meaningful amends heals you in profound ways. Telling those you love how much they mean to you and forgiving someone who’s hurt you will make your life, and death, a more positive experience.
You still may fear death. Getting over that fear takes work. Daily mindfulness meditation helps. Religious people sometimes find comfort in letting go if they pray or say the rosary. Counseling is another option.
Also, consider psychedelics or plant medicine. They show remarkable promise in helping people feel less fear and anxiety around dying. Please get in touch if you’d like a death doula to provide trip-sitting services. It allows you to experience the benefits of psychedelics in a safer environment.
What Kind of Caregiver or Support Group Do You Want?
Who do you want supporting you at end-of-life? Talk to friends and family members as you get older. Find out who’s comfortable in that role. Understand this can change as life and circumstances change.
Normal aspects of the dying and grieving process can be intense, exhausting, and distressing. A dying person may feel a sense of desperation and so might the care team. Create an environment where you and your loved ones tackle these tender conversations and moments with grace, forgiveness, and love.
Continually reflect on your life. Ponder different decisions and choices you’ve made. Do you have a higher power or spiritual guide? Get involved in a house of worship if that provides some sense of community. Most have support groups where members talk about and learn ways to cope with letting go.
Addressing the practical aspects of death, dying, and grief is an important part of the process. People often find it difficult to discuss end-of-life plans, living wills, and funeral arrangements. But these elements of the dying process should be discussed long before you need them.
Once you and your loved ones have spoken openly about your preferences, involve professionals. This includes accountants, funeral directors, lawyers, doctors, and other healthcare workers. They help to ensure your wishes will be honored.
While the documentation involved can be overwhelming, and the requirements will depend on where you live, many resources exist to get you started. Once the task is done, you’ll hopefully feel reassured. You will have what you need to make the process as easy as possible when the time comes.
A Word From Anitya Doula Services
We won’t all experience death in the same way. What’s important to know is that many of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of dying that feel distressing or confusing are normal.
We can accept death and dying long before it arrives. This leads to a fulfilling life and peaceful death. Discuss your preferences for end-of-life care, set up a support network, and connect with a spiritual community. This empowers you to face death openly and honestly.
Call us today for a better death tomorrow.
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