Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Dying Well

Dying is as much part of life as birth, yet many dismiss it, hide it and avoid it.  Death is a taboo subject for many.  It is forbidden word of bad luck.  When such attitudes persist, how one experiences death or experiences death with a loved one can be negative.

It is important to face death as we face birth.  We need to live the dying process fully and despite the pain, stand by those who are dying.  David Kessler explained it best as how we used to meet our loved ones at the gate of an airport.   We met them there, but when their time to leave arrived, we walked them to the gate.  While this is no longer possible since 911, the idea and analogy fits perfectly.   We welcome many from day 1 and in some cases we also say good bye to them.  We cannot cheat the process.  We cannot just drop them off at the terminal and allow a shuttle to carry them off.  We need to be with them every step of the way.

Death is a sacred and intimate moment that we owe our loved ones. We need to be there and experience it with them. Dying well is critical to living well.


In honoring them, in honoring the death process, loved ones need to be with the loved one, yet many negative ideas on death prevent this important time of bonding.   Seeing death as the enemy, as a bad word, and as something to be avoided, leads to regrets later.  It not only affects the dying loved one in a negative way, but it also prevents healthy healing later for the surviving person.

How many times, do individuals not speak about the person’s condition, avoid the disease, maybe even avoid the dying person?  How many times, do individuals chastise other family members for speaking about death to the dying, or express emotion.

In addition to dismissing death, many hide emotion.  They think one must be strong for the loved one who is dying.  This prevents true expression of love.  It incurs unresolved issues that can later haunt the bereaved.  Most importantly, it prevents the dying to express their own emotions with the loved one.  So many chances are lost when death is not spoken about with the dying, or emotions are not permitted to be shared in this intimate moment.

So what do we speak about to the dying?  David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler Ross would simply state, “listen”.  By listening, we give ourselves to the dying, and we also allow them to open up.  No conversation is wrong.  It allows the dying to express their frustrations, their fears, their dreams. It allows closure in things that may never find closure.

Somedays, certain conversations about the reality of death may not be beneficial.  Other days, simply talking about the game and allowing the dying to live suffices.  Other times, discussing death can help the person face the reality and discuss important matters, or share certain feelings.  It is critical in these narrowing days of life, that one shares what one feels.  To hide and take away this precious time of mutual disclosure will never be there again.

Hence it is important to share things, to discuss death, to discuss anything and most importantly listen.  It is also crucial to share emotion, to allow the dying to know it is fine to be cry too!  Too many times,  individuals masquerade their feelings in these final precious moments.

Dying well involves communication, sharing, emotion and togetherness. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification


Death is part of life and not something that should be done wrongly.  Dying wrongly or experiencing death with a loved one is not about how one dies but how one experiences that death or process.  One who experiences death with communication and no false faces is not denied the dignity of it.  One who sojourns the dying to the final gate, experiences its entirety.  It is far from pleasant but when dying and loved ones experience death fully together, then it far more healthy in the short term for the dying and the long term for the mourner.   It is a moment in time that is intimate and precious and one we owe our loved ones to experience fully with them.

That is the pain of life but it is part of life.  We must live life to the fullest and live it correctly.  Death is no different.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  Care of the dying is an important field and the Pastoral Thanatology Certification can help one in helping others die well and in peace.

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on the Dying and Hope

Dying is part of life.  Dying is not a failure but a pivotal part of human experience.  No-one truly knows what is like to die but individuals can learn how to face it.  Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler wrote extensively on death and the needs of the dying.  They discussed vital aspects in how to counsel and listen to the dying.

One of the biggest things they emphasized was to treat the dying as if they are still alive.  To many times, the dying are seen merely as an old shell of what they once were.  The dying are defined by their disease, not who they were.  The term my “dying grandfather” is applied instead of my “grandfather who is dying”.  Dying is not the essential quality of the person.  The essence of the person remains.

Treating the dying as living human beings is the first key in Pastoral Thanatology


When listening to the needs of the dying, one needs to see the full humanness of the person.  They need to see the light within the person’s eyes, not the disease, the machines keeping the person alive, or the crippled body.  The person still exists.

It is essential to treat the dying with dignity and respect.  They deserve to be spoken to about their condition.  They deserve to be involved in the decisions, if conscious.  They deserve to be recognized.  This is family should not shun the conversation of death, or hide their conversations outside the hospital room.  The dying need to be treated as living.

The dignity of the dying is critical to maintain as a living person.   They need to be listened to, spoken to, and not treated as if they already dead.  Hope should never be denied.  Hope is a key element.  While some may remained to the reality of approaching death, hope can continue to fuel the dying.  Since they are alive, hope is still always alive.  To die with hope is not a bad thing.

Dreams of a cure, or a miracle are not bad things.  Too many times, doctors and healthcare professionals see death as defeat and not part of life.  Once the disease progresses to a certain point, they no longer view the person as alive.  They sometimes dismiss hope because of their own defeat.  Death, however, is not defeat.  Death is natural and is as part of life as birth.  Hope for life even during terminal illness does not mean one is in denial of his or her condition but that one is alive and ready to face any challenge, even to the very last breath.   This is the essence of the human spirit and the true meaning of being alive.

Never deny hope to the dying. Hope and dignity are essential to the dying process. Miracles may or may not happen, but noone should be denied hope. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification


One cannot label the dying as dead but treat them as alive.  One must see in the dying, the face of a man or woman in her prime, not defined by old age or disease.  Whether one believes in miracles or does not, whether one is spiritual or not, one cannot dismiss hope if they work with the dying.   Hope is a powerful thing.  Whether it prolongs life or does not, it definitely does not hurt the person.  If the hope is well rounded in reason but yet optimistic, one can live while they are yet dying.

One cannot dismiss the final time of death as wasteful or useless.  There is always a reason.  More time to learn, or teach others.   Family may come closer, or learn new things during the dying process.  Maybe the dying wishes to see one last person.

It is important to grant hope but also to discuss death, to let the dying know they are still a complete person.  They can accept death with dignity as well as fight for every breath, or they may succumb to death with the love of others surrounding them.   Only if the person is given the dignity they deserve while dying is there a true possibility for a happy death.

Dignity and hope are key elements of living the fullness of death.  It may seem contradictory to say living the process of death but that is what it truly is.  When we view the dying as already dead, there is no true process, no true experience of this ultimate event.  Death is part of life and hope and dignity are essential elements of “living” a “healthy” death.

I recommend reading the classics of Kubler Ross, as well as David Kessler’s works on the matter.  Their insight, experience and analysis of death are essential to anyone working in the field of hospice, pastoral thanatology or grief counseling.

If you would like to learn more about death and dying, or would like to become certified in Pastoral Thanatology, then please review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.


Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Palliative Care and Assisted Suicide

Good article on the importance of funding palliative care and assisting life and dealing with suffering than ending life through assisted suicide.  Pastoral Care is about preserving life and helping others find comfort in the end of life.

Pastoral Care never endorses assisted suicide but looks for helping others overcome. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatlogy Certification

The article, “Catholic Medical Association: fund palliative care, not assisted suicide”  by JD Flynn states,

“Palliative care involves medical care and pain management for the symptoms of those suffering from a serious illness, and refraining from taking actions that directly take the life of the patient, as opposed to the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

To read the entire article please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your needs

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Hospice Care Reform

Terminally ill patients deserve good care during their last months.  Hospice is a critical aspect to that.  Hospice needs to ensure that patients are cared for and meet standards that ensure the best qualify of care for the dying.

End of life care and hospice is important and needs to be at its best. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program

The article, “Terminally Ill Patients Deserve Hospice Care Reforms” by Ross Marchand states,

“Every year, hospices offer millions of sick and vulnerable Americans a refuge from medical tests and endless injections in their final days. In 1982, lawmakers realized that a growing network of hospices offered similarly effective but more pleasant care than hospitals for terminally ill patients, at a fraction of the cost.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional standards

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Hospice and End of Life Care

Hospice has been a big part of end of life care since 1970.  It is an essential comfort giving service to the dying.  It allows the terminally ill to receive the pain management and comfort they need in their final days.   Many unfortunately never utilize this service and instead suffer more than they need to in the final days.

End of life care and hospice are important services that allow the dying to receive the care they need. Please review our Pastoral Thanatology Program

Hospice has always been about improving care and comfort for the dying.  In the article, “Hospice: Improving Care at the End of Life”, the author, Mary Kane, answers some basic hospice questions and why it so critical to better care at end of life.  She states,

“When hospice first started to take off, there was a lot of enthusiasm and a sense you were rescuing a person from the clutches of a medical care system gone mad.  That has eroded. Hospice has become both a business, in the sense people are making a lot of money on it, and it’s become routine. Now just about half of Medicare recipients use hospice before they die.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Hospice is growing and it is being seen more important everyday, but many still need to understand its importance in their own end of life care.  To learn more about thanatology and the needs of the dying, please review our Pastoral Thanatology program

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Dying at Home

Palliative care helps individuals face life threatening illnesses with compassion and care.  Hospice helps those who are terminal.  Both can give the comforts of home during an illness or near death.  Is dying at home overrated or is it truly better?

Dying at home is a luxury not all have. Please also review our pastoral thanatology program and see if it meets your academic needs

The article, “Is Dying at Home Overrated?” by Jon Han looks at this question in detail.  He states, 

“It is emotionally and intellectually compelling that patients should die in their own homes, surrounded by loved ones in a comfortable, familiar environment. For patients dying of end-stage disease, be it cancer, heart disease or something else, even the best hospitals are unlikely to be able to “fix” the underlying problem.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Dying at home has many benefits if possible.  It can give the emotional and spiritual needs a person needs.  Please review our Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your educational and professional needs.

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Different Cultures and Dying

As a counselor who deals with death and dying, it is important to have a strong grasp of different cultures and their views of death.  Pastoral Counselors and chaplains come across many different views on death not only within main stream creeds but also other religions not as common in the United States.

While grief is universal, it is nonetheless culturally experienced in different ways. Please also review our Grief Counseling Certification

The article, “Living with dying: Different cultures treat death in different ways” by  Rev. Matthew von Behrens discusses how chaplains need to be aware of the differences of the people they come into contact with.  He briefly describes a few different cultures on their views of death.  The article states,

“Experiencing differences in how various cultures view the end of life can help us understand our own traditions better, as well as develop a greater appreciation and respect for others. Here are three traditions I have encountered in my work as a chaplain at the UVMHN’s Porter Hospital and Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing and practices within them”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your professional and academic needs

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Self Care

Losing a parent at any age is a painful process.  When losing a parent, the intensity of the loss can drain adult children.  The loss can be overwhelming and is life altering.  Special care is needed for the surviving adult children as they learn to cope with a world without their parents.

Who cares for the caregiver during the loss of a parent. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program

The article, “How To Take Care Of Yourself When Your Parent Is Dying” by Nicole Pajer states,

“When a parent receives a terminal diagnosis, it can instantly sweep you into caretaking mode ― chauffeuring to doctor appointments, picking up medications, keeping a positive attitude, running errands and doing anything you can to keep your loved one comfortable. But it’s important not to forget yourself in the process.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program to learn more about care of the dying and self care.


Pastoral Thanatology Program at AICHP

Pastoral Thanatology is the study of pastoral care of the dying.  It is a study but also a active ministry dedicated to the dying and applying the principles of care.   Pastoral Thanatology deals with not only understanding the process of death but also helping individuals and families face death.

Pastoral Thanatology is about caring for the dying. Physicians, caregivers and ministers should have a strong understanding of death and how to help people through it

While it is a difficult reality to accept, one must eventually accept death.  Death visits many people in different forms throughout their lives.  Many experience death at a young age through the loss of a pet.  Others may experience death all to commonly but the the reality that death occurs will manifest in one’s life.   Those who seek to deny this and live in a world where death has no power are the most profoundly wounded when death strikes.

It is important to have a healthy respect for death.  One does not need to have a morbid obsession with it but a healthy respect.  A respect for the reality of death means one is not fearful to discuss it.  One should not fear to discuss the death of oneself in the future or the death of a loved one.  Many fear these discussions of death but by postponing these discussions they only make death worst when it does arrive.

Those who fear death are not prepared for death.  Their Will is not in order, nor their future wishes.  This leaves families without guidance after death.   Others who refuse to discuss death with dying family members miss out on close and personal good byes that may not be able be said on the eve of death.  Discussion of death is critical to a prepared death.  One cannot allow a morbid fear of death and dying to complicate future issues.

It is hence important to understand the reality of death.  It is important to know that when death is on the horizon not to dismiss it but to prepare for it.  Many look to hospice to find relief.   Some see hospice as a death sentence and refuse to utilize its services.  This fear of death prevents important care to minimize pain and discomfort.   Hospice is about quality of life.  It looks care for terminal cases with 6 months or less to live.  This does not mean one surrenders to death or gives up on life but instead one realistically is trying to limit symptoms.  Shortness of breath, intense pain and other symptoms can be successfully dealt with by a hospice team. (1)

One can still have a medical team dedicated to treating the disease or looking to treat the disease itself but hospice will attempt to make the time more comforting.  This is far from surrender but a realistic but also optimistic approach.  Why should one live in discomfort?  Instead minimize the symptoms of death and terminal disease while still looking for a cure.  This is the proper mindset one should have in regards to the utilization of hospice.

Hospice is not surrendering to death but hoping to manage the symptoms of dying

A more acute form of care is Palliative Care.  Palliative Care does not necessarily deal with oncoming and approaching death but is a special care unit designed to treat symptoms associated with a particular type of disease.  They work with the primary caregivers and other healthcare team members in helping the person deal with the ongoing illness.  Many units deal with cancer and other dangerous diseases.  While both Palliative Care and Hospice deal with symptoms they do differ.  Hospice deals with the dying while Palliative Care deals with those who are dealing with an onset of a disease that could possibly kill.  (2)

Pastoral Caregivers, ministers, family and other care givers need to understand the phases of death.  They need to recognize the reality of death and discuss it with individuals who are dying or with family members who are losing individuals to death.  The care and counsel of a minister or caregiver certified and trained in Pastoral Thanaotology is important.  The training helps ministers and family help the dying face death from an emotional and spiritual aspect.

The training in death and dying from a theological and philosophical standpoint help the counselor or minister better able to explain death and suffering from multiple cultural, social and religious views.  They become equipped to answer questions and help emotionally guide the dying through death.  With the combined understanding of the physiology of death, with this philosophical and theological training, a minister or caregiver can confidently help the dying and family.

Doctors, nurses and other primary caregivers should also be trained in Pastoral Thanatology.  They need to be able to help their patient beyond just the physical but also treat them in mind and body.  Many healthcare professionals lack a good bedside manner.  This is unfortunate.  With training in Pastoral Thanatology, healthcare providers can become better equipped in the care of the dying.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross was a pioneer in the care of the dying.  Her study on the stages of death provided psychological chart for ministers and care givers in understanding the mindset of the dying.  While this model is still useful, one must understand that reaction to death, or grief is not always ordered but these various emotions may come in any order.  The classic stages include, denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance.  One can include many other emotions in the acceptance of death but these are the primary stages.  (3)

Again it is imperative to emphasize that many individuals face these stages in various orders and not neatly put together steps.  Some may even revert back to previous stages.  So one certified in Pastoral Thanatology or ministers to the dying need to acknowledge that different patients react differently to death and need their own unique care.

Ultimately, death must be accepted.  How we accept it, how we discuss it and how we deal with it throughout our life will determine our life.  We need to be prepared for death and have a healthy acceptance for it.

Please review AIHCP’S Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals and needs

The American Institute of Health Care Professionals and the American Academy of Grief Counseling acknowledges the need for good care to the dying and the families.  AIHCP offers a certification for qualified professionals and clergy to be better equipped to help patients face death.

The program is online and independent study.  Students can complete the required courses and then proceed to earn a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology.  The certification helps prepare ministers and other care givers the necessary training in Pastoral Thanatology.   If you would like to learn more about care of the dying then please review our Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.




What Is Palliative Care?



Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Grief and Diagnosis

One of the greatest burdens is to receive a bad medical diagnosis.  Some may be terrifying and involve a chance of death while other cases are terminal pronouncements.   These challenges involve first digesting the terrifying diagnosis.  This alone is a challenge and can cause time to adjust to the challenge ahead.  Whether its a long road to recovery or potential death, one must eventually overcome the initial shock wave of grief and denial and move forward.

It is hard to deal and handle a bad health diagnosis. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology program

The article, “The Importance of Grief and Acceptance After a Diagnosis” by Jori Hamilton states,

“Many people, after learning any type of serious diagnosis go through different stages of grief. Grief doesn’t just apply to death, it applies to other types of loss as well.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Grief Counseling Program as well as our Pastoral Thanatology program.  Both programs can help professionals with the training they need to help others through the process of grief and death.