Death and dying and why it’s important – Part 2


We have to face facts that eventually we will all die, there is truth in the saying about death and taxes, that you cannot avoid either of them!


In the blog a couple of weeks ago, I focused on death and dying from the point of view of the person and what their wishes and concerns were about.  But time should also be spent consider the wishes and concerns of those that get left behind.


If the person dying has a terminal diagnosis, then this is the time to have the conversation about their care, so the carer knows what to do for them, if there ever comes a time that they cannot speak well for themselves.  Being able to support the person in their desired way can be really helpful, as the thing that the family really want is for their loved one to be well, but if that is not possible, then doing something for them is better than feeling helpless.


A terminal diagnosis is also a time to build memories, within the limits of what may be physically possible, those memories will be very precious in due course.  We all build important memories all the time, but a terminal diagnosis can focus attention onto what is really important and to be mindful of those opportunities, which are often found in the little things, like a cup of coffee, bit of cake and a great chat or hearty laugh!


People can often feel helpless at the very end, there can often be a lot of sitting around in the last few hours waiting for someone to die, it feels very dis-empowering, just to watch, but there is little to do for family members.  However, it might be very important to that person that they do not die alone, although I have anecdotally been told that people often do, even with a 24 hour vigil, they will pass away in the quiet moment when the family member has a comfort break!  We don’t often see real dead bodies and yet we see the bodies of the people close to us, which can sometimes be the first dead body that they have ever seen.  At the time the experience can be difficult, something upsetting always has a sad tinge, even when the family also believes that death is a release.


When a death is unexpected, due to accident or sudden illness, there is no time for family to adjust to the idea of them dying, it has already happened and the sudden nature of that can take a long time to overcome.  It can also difficult if the death was at a younger age, which always seems unfair, they had not lived a whole life and had more to do, but no time to do it in!


When someone takes their life the people left behind always ask the “what is I’d have…….” questions, as this can be very hard for them to cope with.  The grieving process is made harder by the administration that goes with it, the investigations by the authorities, including for example police and coroner.


Surviving family members might benefit from bereavement counselling, this could be relevant regardless of the timing or circumstances of the death, they might just find it difficult to process.


The funeral is also important, it can combine elements of what the person wanted and what the family want too.  It is the time to say “goodbye” and to meet other friends and relatives to remember the person who has died.


So if you are someone or know someone with a terminal diagnosis or their family, compassion is the key message, compassion for the person and their wishes and compassion for those who will be left behind.