We are all going to die.
In our Western world and many parts of our healthcare system, death can be seen as some sort of failure, a failure of the knowledge of the doctors, the care of the health team or of our bodies to function as they should.
If you have a faith in God, it may also feel like He has failed too and not answered prayers.
In our culture, as patients and doctors, we can end up avoiding the subject.
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I think that this is partly out of fear, but also because we don’t know how to handle it.
Research shows that 1 per cent of those on a GP’s list will die each year and that most deaths will be predictable – including those with chronic diseases such as cancer, dementia or heart failure.
Most elderly people say they would expect their doctors to know if they were nearing death and would want them to discuss it with them – even though it is impossible to predict exact timescales.
Much more is available medically to ease physical symptoms such as pain and nausea, but pain can also be emotional and people may want to talk about difficult things.
They may have big questions about the meaning of life or may reflect on their relationships.
Sometimes they want to say “thank you” or “I love you”, or deal with issues around forgiveness.
Allowing them to do this, maybe with help from a chaplain or church leader, can make a massive difference.
I was privileged to be in the room as my mum died. There was a tangible sense of her spirit leaving the room, and what remained was just physical.
I could feel God’s presence as a peaceful love in the room.
I have never felt that she as a person is dead, rather she is very much alive, just not here in her body.
Having that experience really helped me adjust to loss.
Grieving can take people months or years.
Giving space for a bereaved person to talk, especially about the person who has died, helps.
Inviting them to events or including them in normal life is important, even if they say no.
Don’t presume how they will feel.
Many things lose their power when we bring them into the light.
It’s exactly the same with death and dying.