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Grief & Bereavement Issues

Death and Dying Introduction

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Mar 2nd 2016

Whether we acknowledge it or not, most of us fear death. Death remains a great mystery, one of the central issues with which religion, philosophy and science have wrestled since the beginning of human history. Even though dying is a natural part of existence, in many cultures, death is viewed as a taboo topic. Rather than having open discussions, we tend to view death as a feared enemy that can and should be defeated by modern medicine and machines. Our language reflects this battle mentality, we say that people "combat" illnesses, or (in contrast) "fall victim" to them after a "long struggle." Euphemistic language also gives us distance from our discomfort with death. People who die are "no longer with us", have "passed", gone "to meet their Maker", “bought the farm”, “kicked the bucket", and so on.

Death and DyingSome of the discomfort with the death and dying process has come about because death has been removed from common experience. Typically, we no longer die at home surrounded by family and friends, but in hospitals and other health care facilities. This lack of personal experience with death and dying only adds to our sense of trepidation and fear.

It is human nature to try to avoid things we fear. Because we are afraid, we tend to avoid thinking about our own mortality. It is time to adjust our thinking. We live in a unique era. Thanks to medical advances in defeating sudden causes of death such as heart attacks and strokes, more of us are dying of so-called "incremental" (slower moving) illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and diabetes. As a result, many have been given the gift of time and the ability to shape their death and dying process. Many of us now have the luxury of expressing and recording medical care and financial wishes in advance. In addition, we can address interpersonal (e.g., saying goodbye, forgiving old hurts) and spiritual issues (e.g., finding meaning in life) before we die.

This center is designed to provide you with information about how to prepare in advance for your own death, as well as how to help someone you love that is dying. We also discuss grieving and some pointers for those that are left behind to continue living. We hope that this information can take away some of the anxiety caused by the unknown, and allow you to find a way to die a good death, or help someone you love have the same experience.

"The act of dying is one of the acts of life."

Marcus Aurelius

"Thinking and talking about death need not be morbid; they may be quite the opposite. Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow."

Lily Pincus- British social worker and psychotherapist

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Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Still here - - Nov 30th 2014

Everyone who is so torn that they lost their beloved and friends need to realize death is an illusion of the mind. As a society we decided when a body stopa moving that person is gone therefore people assume thy are gone forever. It's all in your mind. They did not die the are alive and well just as alive as you

3 Deaths in One Year - Michaela - May 3rd 2013

This past year has been a nightmare for me. My pony that I had for 14 years of my life (I got her when I was 4) passed away in May of last year I grieved for her because she was my best friend. Then on Jan. 1st my dad passed away because he didn't take care of his diabetes so it got worse. He also smoked 3 packs a day. I have many regrets. He was in the hospital due to seizures that if he had taken care of his diabetes he wouldn't of had them, however I just got tired of seeing him in the hospital so I stopped going there because I didn't want to picture him in a hospital bed. Now I wish I had quit being so selfish. Before I had time to grieve for him, a week ago my grandma, whom I was very close to, passed away in her sleep due to an unknown cause. My grandma was in the room when my daughter (almost a year old) was born and she cut the umbilical cord that's how close we were is that I wanted her to do that. Now I have to start the grieving process all over again for the third time. I don't know what i did to deserve this. If you have any tips to help me with the grief i would sincerely appreciate it.

Losing mum - - Jul 8th 2012

How do you ever find the strength to accept the loss of a loved one, especially a mother ~ mine has been my life's stability and reasoning whenever I have needed a reality check.

She is my best friend and someone who has been there fore me. Mum has been diagnoised with heart failure and only given months to live. Whilst hard enough to cope with, my sibblings have nearly all proved to be strangers, people I once knew, but I never really knew.  

I know its going to be very hard to say goodbye and if anyone has any words of wisdom or advice, it would be most welcome.

Thank you.

Neurodegeneration - SCA2010 - Oct 11th 2010

I'm a young man, happy with life married with a 6 yr old daughter. This year I was told I have a rare progressive disease called Spinocerebellar Ataxia. Found my father had passed at 53 from this, for the first time in my life I feel truely afraid.

I'm not sure if its fear of death or fear of becoming imprisoned in my own body.

 

Restless Ataxic

Suicide; Comfort for Kim - Paul - Jun 2nd 2010

Kim,   I happened upon this site as I am trying to deal with a pending death of my elderly mother.  I passed across your post and felt a strong need to extend a hand of comfort to you.  Your guilt is real, I know; however, there is nothing that you are guilty of.  You have absolutely no responsibility for the actions taken by your friend.  I hope that you can sort through your feelings and accept the grieving process but not the guilt.  You are only guilty of being a good friend, confidante, and trusting soul.  Your accusers should search their souls to see if they can say the same of themselves.  May God bless you and hold you in the palm of his hands as you work through this difficult time.

deep regret - kim - Feb 5th 2010

My best freind committed suicide when we were 17 years old.  Her father had abandoned her when she was 13 and her mother moved out to live with her boyfreind about two years ago.  About two months before she died, she told me that she was depressed and wanted to die.  I thought she was just being dramatic and I really couldn't imagine her ever doing anything.  I tried to comfort her and I made her promise she wouldn't commit suicide.  She promised me she wouldn't so I thought there was no need to tell her mom and thought that there was no way she would commit suicide since she promised me she wouldn't.  Last month, she commited suicide and I was so shocked and so hurt.  Her mom came over to my house and continued to interogate me until I admitted that she had mentioned suicide.  Now everyone blames me because I didn't tell her mom.  Her mom told me that if I had told, she could have prevented this from happening.  I am grieving and am feeling more pain than I have ever felt in my life.  I do miss her so much and on top of all that, I am consumed with guilt and don't know what to do.  I think this is all my fault and everyone else seems to think it is my fault as well.

my grandma - hope - Apr 17th 2009

my grandma has cancer and she is dying. i am not sure how i can comfort her or myself. she lives next door to us and i have to watch her loose weight, adn hair. i dont know what to sa to her. my life hasnt been easy. i have had to deal with many deaths. but she is my only grandparent left. im only 15. help...

Editor's Note: There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to your situation.  Some people in your grandmother's situation acknowledge what is happening and are able to talk about it, while others are more in denial about it.  This goes the same for people in your situation, or your parents situation.  The reality and permanentness of death is extremely hard to talk about; it is extremely painful to contemplate.  However, we all will die someday.  It is a part of life - the last part of it.  

If you and your grandmother are up (and only you can know if that is the case) for it, it could be a good idea to talk about what is happening.  It is certainly a good idea to communicate to your grandmother how much you love and value her, showing her that with words and with actions.  Time is short - that is the message of death - and you won't necessarily have the opportunity to do later what you cannot find a way to do today.  Love doesn't overcome death, but it is a vital part of what makes life worth living during the time you spend living.  

You may want to read through our Death and Dying and Grief topic centers - there is a lot of good information contained therein which you may find helpful.  

help - alexis - Dec 30th 2007

My Granpa died a few days ago from lung cancer.  5 days from Christmas and 1 week from his birthday!! I tried to stop him smoking but it didn't work. Because of this I feel like it's my fault. What should I do? 

Editor's Note: It is not your fault that your grandfather died.  It's important for you to realize that you never had the power to force him to stop; Only the power to ask.  It was always his decision alone to continue or not.  Also, please realize that smoking is a very addicting habit, and it would have been very, very difficult for your grandfather to have stopped smoking.  Many people would like to stop smoking, but they find it too difficult to do on their own.  I'm sure you loved your grandfather very much, and are very sad that he has died.  You are grieving now.  Grieving is very painful and sad, but it is a normal process that people go through when someone they care about dies.  You might want to read about grieving a little bit, becuase reading about what grieving is like can sometimes help people find the strength to get through it. 

 

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