Death And Dying Are Part Of Life
In our western culture we tend to not think about death and dying. People often shy away from talking about it and yet we all know it is a fact. We are all here temporarily. Our loved ones are here temporarily. The thought of death and dying is often very scary. It is easier, it seems, to simply not deal with it. When the time comes we are not prepared. We have not discussed it. We don’t know how we feel about it….
Using Compassion and Openness at All Life Phases
I am not an expert on death and dying. I am simply a person that attempts to look with compassion and openness at all phases of the life we spend our time here on earth.
I have dedicated a large part of my professional and personal time to helping people and their families during this difficult time.
There are no templates nor simple instructions that make it easier or manageable for all.
There is only a mindfulness of presence and a sincere desire to assist.
You can read more about the end of life care services I offer here
Death Is Personal
Many years ago my dear friend was dying from cancer. We managed to celebrate her 40th birthday. A girls’ trip to the north of Israel. We had a wonderful time together.
A few weeks later the illness returned for the third time and after extensive radiation she was in and out of consciousness. It was a very difficult time. Her kids were young and she was receiving hospice services at home.
Tension Amongst the Ones Who Stay Behind
There was some tension amongst us, her friends, as well as her sisters, at what kind of conversations should take place. Some thought we should give her permission to go, others thought we must have a candid and open conversation about her imminent death, I felt we should follow whatever and wherever she lead. Emotions were high, we were all upset and angry and miserable.
I look back on this event that took place about 15 years ago or so. It affected me deeply. I felt alone and isolated. I did not have support for me. I also felt guilt and shame that I am thinking of myself while she is dying, while her kids are losing their mother and her husband losing his wife. I did not have the skill or the tools to take care of me as I offered support for her. I was there every day. I was close by when she took her last breaths in the hospital. It was the first time I was an active participant in the process of death and dying. I miss her still.
Different People Need Different Things When Dealing with Death
What I learned since is that death and dying are very personal. That different people need different things. That families and friends can rally up or stumble and fall, or both. I know I had my heart in the right place. I learned to respect and follow the lead of the person or persons suffering during this challenging time. This does not come without difficulty.
Who is the priority? The dying person? Their family?
I Hold My Heart Open and Connected
I found that the process that allows me to be present and supportive is one of continuous reflection and introspection while my heart remains open and connected to all. I check in to see what is right, what is best… And then turn outward and bring love and compassion. This may mean saying nothing, or maybe saying something. It may mean sitting by the bed just present, or it can be a touch that is required at that time.
The guiding light is always remembering: This is not about me. This is not about what I think I would have wanted. Remaining present and loving, open to the needs of the person and his/her loved ones.
Thoughts On Issues Related to Death And Dying:
Death With Dignity
An article at the Huffpost raises the issue of death with dignity.
The discussion on having the right to end ones life is a charged one and I will refrain from delving into it. I will only say that when you have choice you feel more empowered and less frightened.
Creating Opportunities for Choice
Creating opportunities for choice during death and dying is a way to provide the person and their loved ones with a sense of purpose and strength. This can be done in small and big ways.
Roshi Joan Halifax speaks and writes on compassion:
“Compassion flowers from the realization that we are not separate and have no fixed identity.” (Being With Dying)
As we open our hearts to the experience of another there is no barrier. There is the true desire to alleviate the suffering of ourselves and others.
How can we help best? What would serve best?
Compassion is the ultimate healing.
“Soft front, strong back” as we step on a path of love. Embracing all that comes our way.
Grieving The Future Death
It is common for us humans to anticipate.
We know a person is sick and dying. We are already living in the future of that person’s imminent death. We grieve for the coming loss.
Making Conscious Decisions
Some years ago a child of a dear wise friend was diagnosed with incurable cancer.
We had a long conversation a few weeks after the diagnosis.
She told me she made a decision to see him as alive and enjoy every moment of his remaining life.
This is not easy to do but she gave herself the gift of living in the present with this incredible boy for another year before he passed.