Grief Counseling Certification Article on Death and Dying

They say the only certain things in this life are death and taxes.  Death is a guarantee at the moment of birth and becomes ironically part of living itself.  It plays a key role in our life span in this temporal world.  Yet, it is the most feared and avoided topic despite its central importance to our life itself.  Thanatology attempts to understand the nature of death and dying itself and attempts to explain the science and philosophy of death.  Grief Counseling tries to help us adjust to the process of dying or the death of another.  Together, they can help an individual better discuss, deal and cope with this very natural life event.

Traditionally, death has many characteristics.   Lack of respiration, lack of pulse and heartbeat, zero response to stimuli, lowered body temperature, stiffness of the body and bodily bloating are all signs of death.  The Harvard Criteria lists death as something that leaves the individual unresponsive to stimuli, no movement or breathing and no reflexes.  Furthermore it notes that there is no longer any circulation of blood to the brain and a flat EEG exists.

What constitutes a state of death? Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


Death hence has it characteristics and permanence once a certain time period of such lack of activity exists.  While the fear of not being dead and buried may have existed long ago, today’s science clearly delineates the boundaries of alive and dead.   Death though is more than a physical event, but is also for many a spiritual event.  It is an event that leads to a new birth in spiritual beliefs and is more than just merely the end of physical activity.  While spirituality and death may not have empirical evidence to support it, the belief itself is wide held throughout humanity.  It can also be said, while it cannot be empirically proven, life after death, it is also said it cannot be disproven.

The dying process leads to death and is more than a physical journey but also a spiritual and emotional one for the dying as well as their loved ones.  The biggest question to ask is when does dying begin?  Philosophically one can say, dying begins the day we are born, but health studies require a more definitive definition that denotes a direct and acute movement towards death itself.  While one may be dying, sometimes, one may not even know the event is occurring.  This is why recognition of the facts is essential to officially declare one is dying.  The facts need to be communicated and realized for the psychological, emotional and spiritual elements to enter into the equation.  When nothing else can be done to prevent the acute event, one officially realizes they are dying and will die due to a particular thing.

The expression and communication of dying to another is something that healthcare professionals have recently been hoping to improve in regards to delivery of the news.  In the past, the dreaded news has been expressed coldly and sometimes abruptly.   As an event of failure to the medical world, the person was left to process the information without guidance or compassion.  Today, those in Pastoral Thanatology, look to help the dying die with dignity but also understanding and compassion.  Hospice prepares the dying for the ultimate end, looking to reduce pain and prepare one emotionally and spiritually for death.

Physicians and healthcare providers though can better communicate death to their patients.  Sharing smaller facts and gauging responses are key, as well, and not overwhelming the dying and their family at first.  Explanations and time to educate are key, despite the discomfort of such bad news.  Allowing pauses and questions and time to process is key, but also respecting denial.  Being there and giving the time is key. Another important element is not to stretch the truth, but to be completely honest, but in that honesty, again, find the time to listen and not mechanically leave the scene after such heartbreaking news.  Many healthcare professionals are not trained in explaining death and are only trained in the mechanics of what is occurring physically, while dismissing the emotional and mental aspects of death.

Once one is faced with dying and accepts the outcome, certain questions become obvious to the dying.  Certain trajectories manifest to the dying that map out their final days.  The biggest are certainty and time.  How long does one have and what to expect in the final months, days or hours.  Some trajectories are quick, others linger, and others occur unexpectedly.  These aspects can greatly change how one prepares for death.

Death comes for all. How we prepare depends on multiple factors. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program


Obviously each trajectory has their benefits and disadvantages.  Preparation in death can allow one to put all business aside, but leaves one to the mental long anguish of knowing the end is coming.  Quick deaths can reduce this anxiety but leave one with very little time to prepare financially, spiritually and emotionally.

The long mental process of accepting death was best laid out by Elisabeth Kubler Ross.  Kubler Ross worked with the dying and found they responded in a five stages to death.  Namely, denial, anger, sadness, bargaining and acceptance.  Each phase while not always ordered, showed the emotional response of most people to the news of death itself.  The news can be so terrifying that one may react in a variety of ways trying to control what one cannot control.  The ultimate end is acceptance because death is guaranteed for all.

Charles Corr also pointed out the reaction to the news of death.  At the epicenter is the physical reality of dying, followed by the psychological reaction, followed by the social reactions and finally the spiritual reactions.  As the wave of the news spreads, the dying story encompasses all aspects of the person’s existence.

Buddhist stages of death are more spiritual.  They see various stages of loss of sensation, to visions, to nothingness itself.  In Christianity, death is seen as the result of sin.  It is a punishment and the severing of soul and body, but it is temporary, and the body one day is restored to the soul.   It is important to understand the spirituality of the individual who is dying and to help them fulfill any incomplete spiritual exercises before death.  This gives comfort to the dying.

How death eventually takes the person is something very intimate and seen by family and healthcare workers.  While it can be painful, it is sometimes very peaceful, as the body surrenders to death.   While many may never have it, it is everyone’s hope to experience a happy and peaceful death surrounded by love.  This is the most anyone can ask for as this dreaded but important part of our life occurs.  One needs to be prepared and think about this event.  It should not be disregarded as morbid, but seen as an important part of life.  The thought of dying well is something we should all smile towards when that day comes.

If you would like to learn more about Grief Counseling and Pastoral Thanatology, then please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and Pastoral Thanatology Certification.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking four year certifications in these disciplines.

Please also review

“Death, Dying and Human Society”by David Kastenbaum

“On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Family Grief with a Dying Loved One

Anyone can reflect on the death of a loved one and if focused can feel the panic and dread.  Immediately wishing to remove it from one’s mind, one turns attention way to more pleasant thoughts, but the reality is, many families have loved ones diagnosed with cancer or dementia and other life altering illnesses.  These individuals live with the knowledge their family member will die probably, unless a miracle, die soon.

Families can have a difficult time with dying process of a loved one. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program


This type of mental torture leads to grieving the death prior in many cases.  It can be anticipatory in nature.  When death does come, it may affect the initial reaction to the death.  One may feel relieved, or one may feel guilty, or one continue to grieve.  Pastoral Care givers need to help the grieving family almost as much as the person dying.

The article, “Understanding Grief for Still-Living Family Members” from Technology Networks based off Singers research found in J. Health Pyschol looks deeper at this concept of pre grief of family.  The article reveals research from Singer that discussed the reaction of families dealing with long term illness of family members.  The article states,

“The symptoms of grief people feel for a loved one facing a life-limiting illness fluctuate over time, a new study found – suggesting that individuals can adjust to their emotional pain, but also revealing factors that can make pre-loss grief more severe.  Researchers examined changes in the severity of pre-loss grief symptoms in people whose family members had either advanced cancer or dementia.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on an Ethical Will

Ethical Wills in the past have left detailed instructions on burial.  These older Jewish customs have also become today templates to express emotional or non material things that you hope to hand down to someone.  A dying person can hence list things he or she hopes to distill in son or daughter or grandchild.  In addition, other family members can create letters or videos that let the person dying what they received most from them regarding their life.  This is a difficult step for it involves acceptance of death but it allows for a better death and healing for all involved.

Ethical Wills are an beautiful way for the dying to express the more important spiritual things they impart on their loved ones.


The article, “What is an Ethical Will?” from “Whats Your Grief” looks at the Ethical Wills Origins and how it has evolved to allow one to pass down more spiritual things to the ones they are leaving.  The article states,

“I have now recommended ethical wills to many families who have loved ones who are dying. It is an incredible way for families to share what they will keep with them once a loved one is gone. For the person who is dying, the can share what they hope to leave behind that is not physical. Even when you cannot physically gather together, this is something you can still create. Family members can gather everyone’s written, video, or audio thoughts and share it with the person who is dying.”

To review the entire, article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program and see if they match your academic and professional goals.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four certification.

Pastoral Thanatology Article on Death and Dignity of the Elderly

The terminally ill face the reality of death every day.  They may initially deny and bargain but the reality eventually sets in.  How the terminally ill are treated is key to their dignity and hope.  Hope and dignity to their personhood is key.  One does not set out to rid one of hope but one also hopes to care and treat the symptoms of the terminally ill and guide them through reality.

One of the keys of respecting the dignity and hope of the dying is to treat them as the living.  Too many times, doctors and other healthcare physicians dismiss the terminal ill as a lost case.  Death is not seen as part of life but a defeat.  On the contrary, death is an important part of our lives and how we “live” death is as important as how we lived our entire life.  In doing so, the dignity of the dying is respected at the highest level by keeping them part of their own dying process. They should not be ignored, left out of decisions, or treated as children.  The topic of death should not be avoided as if taboo, but truthfulness and respect should be applied to the dying.  They need to be part of the process as much as possible.

It is important that the dying play a role if they can in the process of death. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thantology training program


In also respecting their dignity, hope should be nourished.  False claims should not be presented but an open reality to hope should always exist.  To dismiss one’s dreams and hopes is to disrespect the fire and spark of the human spirit itself.  One can work with the dying and apply appropriate alternative therapies and give openness to the dying’s hopes and dreams.  This does not mean one exists in a state of denial.  On the contrary, this means, one accepts the dire situation and the nature of the disease, but also expresses the hope that is inherent to human dignity.

In nourishing both the dignity of living the death process as well as hope, those in pastoral care and pastoral thanatology can better treat the emotional element of the dying.  It is as equally important that hospice or health providers not only treat and alleviate suffering of the body, but also the mind.  This is why pastoral thanatology is so important in hospice.

If we do not understand the needs of the dying from an emotional standpoint or treat the dying as living, then we miss the entire point of pastoral care for the dying.  We also miss the point of the human condition and the importance of death in the entire process of life.  Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler were both pioneers in their field in expressing the rights and needs of the dying.  They both dedicated their life to helping others experience death.  They also helped train and educate so many people about death.

If we do not understand death now, we will not be able to have a better death ourselves, nor be equipped to help one’s loved one’s experience death.  So many regrets and un-needed pains exist because the dying experience was not properly conducted in terms to expression of emotion or inclusion of the dying in their own affairs. Death is seen as the final chapter and as a scary one at that.  It is fine to be intimidated by it, but it is part of life and like all aspects of life, it is critical that we live death to its fullest.  We need to respect it as much as we respect birth and respond to it properly.

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

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 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 Article on Palliative Care

Great article on what Palliative Care as part of the overall Hospice care.  Palliative care is more diverse in that it deals with the serious  illness at any phase, helping many recover.  Sometimes, it leads to ultimately hospice in itself, but Palliative Care can be part of your medical team.

Palliative Care addresses serious illness at any phase. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches your professional goals

The article, “A Good Life And A Good Death: What Is Palliative Care?: by Camel Wroth states,

“Palliative care is attending to the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering of patients and families who are dealing with a serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care that we provide in the last six months of life.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Program

Through Pastoral care, one can better help others face death from not only a mental way but also a spiritual.

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Discussing Death

Approaching the question of death with a healthy mindset is important.  Too many times, death and dying is put off and ignored.  This can create untimely preparation and confusion surrounded by the sadness.  Hence talking about death is important.

Discussions about death and dying are important.  Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification
Discussions about death and dying are important. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification

The article,”Changing the National Conversation around Death” looks at the importance of discussing death and dying.  It states,

“From anti-aging beauty regimens to strict diets and medical screenings, Western culture places immense value on the quality and preservation of life. Death, however, is a subject largely absent from daily conversation, and when raised, it evokes fear and anxiety.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology Certification program to learn more about death and dying and also to become certified.


Pastoral Thanatlogy Article on End of Life Options

End of life care can be stressful and sad for family members.  They need to know the options necessary for their loved one.   There are many routes to take depending on one’s situation in caring for the loved one.

Knowing your end of life options is important.  Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology program and see if it matches your goals
Knowing your end of life options is important. Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology program and see if it matches your goals

The article, “6 Different End-of-Life Care Options to Know if You or a Loved One Is Sick” reviews the many types of care from hospice to palliative to anything in between.  The article states,

“No one wants to think about end-of-life care for themselves or a loved one. But when it comes down to it, end-of-life care is another important way of looking after a person’s health both mentally and physically. “It’s about finding the right fit and putting a team in place to help you achieve your goals,” Scott Kaiser, M.D., a family physician and geriatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. ”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Pastoral Thanatology program and see if it matches your professional goals.

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article On The Cost Of Dying

Good article about the cost of dying.   Many people do not prepare for this and it can cost more than one thinks

The cost of dying can be quite expensive. Please review our pastoral thanatology program
The cost of dying can be quite expensive. Please review our pastoral thanatology program

The article, “The financial cost of death and dying” by Bina Brown states,

“The death of a loved one can be hard enough to deal with without the extra worry about the cost of carrying out their wishes. Key decisions — including the executor of the will, whether to die at home or whether you are buried among the trees or cremated — all involve a financial burden and much easier made when family members are not bereaved.”

To read the entire article, please click here

If you would like to learn more, then please review our Pastoral Thanatology Program