The Irony of Death as Part of Life

The Angel of Death is coming for everyone ever born into this world.  It is inevitable.  Death cannot be coaxed or tricked or reasoned.  She comes for poor and rich alike, good and evil, great and small, man and woman, elder or child.  Whether its peaceful or violent, tragic or calm, death comes.  Some fear her, others welcome her.  In the end, as certain as birth is also as certain as death.

The Angel of Death can be seen as bad and good, sadness and joy and ending or new beginnings

 

While many may see this event as the end, it should be instead as seen as part of the process of existence itself.  Death is not the end of life but part of life.  It as important to live the death process as important as to live the birth process.  Many take away from this event, for it is indeed terrible and frightening but beyond this physical and sometimes seemingly dark moment, is a transition and an important part of life itself.  Whether religious, spiritual or atheist, death is a cycle plays an equal role to birth.  One can see it as balancing life, or giving back to the cosmos, or transitioning to the next life.  Whether one ceases to exist, or continues to exist, death gives back to the world that permitted one’s existence.  Whether one’s composition is reformed for the cosmos, or one’s immortal soul and life energy transcends another plane, whether theist or atheist, one sees a sacred balance taking place.

This part of life must be honored, it must be respected.  The individual and those who love and are loved, need to treat the process and event as a sacred event.  Whether tears, tales of the good times, or preparation for the next, it is a time to share all emotion.  It is a time not to hide from, or try to avoid, but one to embrace, no matter the sadness or pain.   Death should be met with dignity, on its terms.  Death should be made to be as comfortable and painless as possible, but death should not be hated or cursed, but accepted as an event as real as birth.   Many who do not understand these views, will hasten death before it should come for fear of suffering or depair, while others will cling to life too long through any artificial means.   It is natural to fight for life, but it is equally natural to accept reality and find comfort during the process.  The imbalance between hanging on too long and giving up too soon through the process takes prudence and a true understanding of the death event and what it means.

While it is more difficult to celebrate death as one celebrates birth because of pain and loss, it can still be celebrated in a different way.  It can be celebrated as a completion of life. It can be a celebration of the life lived and depending upon one’s views, a new life experienced.  An awakening from the cocoon of temporal life and awakening as a new creature into the next.

Many view death and life from multiple prisms.  No one prism is more valid than the others and in many cases, the different views can conflict.

One’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual views on death give a better picture of the event for ourselves. The irony of fear and peace, joy and sadness, and known and unknown are all part of the feelings with death

 

The first view of death definitely is shaped from a spiritual arena of thought.   Those of religious backgrounds have many different ceremonies surrounding death.  From the multiple Hindu rituals aiding the soul into the after life to monotheistic views of judgement and entrance into hopefully Heaven.  Many of these religious and spiritual views can grant the dying or the families of the dying a sense of hope.  While there are multiple tears, hope and faith promise the suffering and the sufferer that they will once again see each other in some form.  This can lead one to many conclusions.

It can help individuals see death in a different light.  Death is only a physical terminal date but it is not permanent, but only temporary and transitional to another life.  In Christianity, through death, Jesus Christ conquered death and promised Resurrection to all who die after Him.  This same promise is issues to those within Judaism and Islam.  The promise that Jehovah or Allah will awaken the bodies of the dead.  Death hence is not final.

Nor in the Eastern faiths.  Death brings about a transition where the soul may again re-emerge on this plane of existence, or finally reconnect with the ultimate reality.

Hence within the spiritual prism of the idea of death, death has no final statement, but only a temporary stamp that leads to transition.  While those who are not spiritual face a different reality, one more without this type of hope, there can still be a aura of awe.  One can find the imprint of the lost loved one in memories that live on through others.  The importance of legacy and values handed down and being kept alive are important for these individuals, even more so than those of spiritual beliefs.  While there is no chance or thought of reunion, there still exists the faint whisper of the one who once was in others or in values.  There is also the oneness of knowing that the circle of life that takes, also gives back, and through the cycle of life and death, all share a material role to play.

The second view that affects one’s view of death is one’s intellectual self.  While faith or belief plays a large role in shaping death and her essence, the intellect nonetheless relies upon the senses to understand life itself.  This empirical reality is based in science itself.  Hence, while one may possess a strong faith, the intellect still fears what it cannot grasp.  It still wonders and can doubt.  So while one may at one particular point, express relief that one’s loved one has passed on, there still exists a small existential nudge of fear and doubt.  There is indeed hope, but the fear still can exist.  The intellect can only adhere to what the senses show it.  The sight of the corpse, the sounds of the funeral and the cold reality of no more presence of the loved on Earth is a true reality.  These intellectual realities cannot be dismissed by faith alone but are real and true experiences that cause intense suffering.  The intellect acknowledges the harshness and separation of death.

The final view of death affects one’s emotional self.  The intense sadness of separation of the loved one cannot at times be comforted by faith.  While the intellect acknowledges the mark of death and the consequences of it, the heart mourns it and experiences it.  It sees death as unfair, unjust and a weapon to take one’s love away.  The emotional heart fears death, it seeks to avoid it and it wishes it would never happen.  These are all natural feelings connected to survival.  One tries to exist as long as one can. It is evolutionary to do so.  The evolutionary urge to exist in this plane and the anxiety and intense sadness of separation from those one loves, drives one away from the mere thought of death.

So from this, one can can see a balancing act of views about death. None are truly wrong.  Spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, all play an equal truth in understanding death.  They balance the full story and allow certain parts to mourn, fear and have hope.  They are sometimes experiences at different times.  When one is experiencing the immediate experience of death, emotional tears and thoughts dominate.  Later, when calmed, more spiritual ideals may return.  Then in the coldness of grief, sometimes, fears and intellectual thoughts can emerge.  They should all be analyzed and allowed to ferment within the soul.  Ultimately, they help shape one’s entire and whole view on death.  They complement each other.  They show hope, but also permit sorrow and even doubt.  They allow natural anxieties about death to manifest that need addressed.

Together, they can allow oneself to mourn but also to have a healing trajectory and also a better reverence for death.  They help one to experience death as part of life and to entertain all the emotions that are associated with it.  The balance of these differing sensing of what death is permit a more complete view of the event, with each one playing an important role in the process.  Hence ironically, death is feared but not feared, sad but joyous, and known but unknown.

Helping others properly face death with all the uncertainties is an important part of living itself. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program.  The program looks at the needs of the dying as well as the needs of the mourning.  It tries to help ministry and healthcare professionals into better understanding the nature of death and helping others transition through this important part of life.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals looking for a certification in Pastoral Thanatology.

 

Additional Resources

“What Is Thanatology? :A thanatologist studies various aspects of death and dying”. Chris Raymond.  June 7th, 2020. Verywellhealth.  Access here

“What Happens When You Die”., Cleveland Clinic. Access here

“Facing Death without Religion: Secular sources like science work well for meaning making”. Christel Manning. 2019. Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Access here

“Death in Different Religions”.  October 8th, 2019. Endwithcare. Access here

“A systematic review of religious beliefs about major end-of-life issues in the five major world religions”. RAJSHEKHAR CHAKRABORTY, M.D, etc, al. Palliat Support Care. 2017 Oct; 15(5): 609–622. National Library of Medicine. Access here

 

Pastoral Thanatology Program Video on Needs of the Dying

The dying have many needs that are sometimes neglected.  Physicians focus so many times on physical needs.  They see sometimes patients as success or failure only.  Dying is not failure but a process.  Properly dying is part of living.

The dying face many issues when confronted with death and beyond the basic issues of human dignity and physical comfort, they also need emotional, mental and spiritual support.  When these things are not met, then the entirety of the human person and his or her needs are neglected.  Important parts of one’s life are neglected when fear and death encompass the person and the family.  The video below explores the multiple needs of the dying.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program 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

 

Please review the video below

Pastoral Thanatology Program Video on Death and Dying

Death and dying is part of life and living.  Living well means also dying well.  How one philosophically, mentally, emotionally and physically approaches the topic of death is critical to one’s final days.   Dying can be very unique for different people.  It can occur quickly or slowly but for all it will come and how we approach it and understand it is not only important for oneself but also our loved ones.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thantology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to individuals and qualified professionals interested in Pastoral Thanatology.

Please review the video below on Death and Dying

Pastoral Thanatology Program Blog and Spirituality in Healthcare

Some may question spirituality with a physician or in healthcare but when treating the totality of the person there is always some type of spirituality.  Healthcare professionals should not cross certain boundaries with personal faith but many individuals have spiritual needs and emotional pains.  It is important to be more holistic in treatment approach of the entire person.

Care of the sick or dying is more than medical treatment. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

The article, “Does spirituality belong at the doctor’s office?” by Jen Rose Smith looks closer at the issue of spirituality and the doctor’s office.  She states,

“Graham has defined spirituality as “our innate ability to connect — to connect to others, to our environment, to the transcendent mystery and to our true, deepest self.” Like Sweet, he said modern medicine’s focus on efficiency leaves out that broader view of patients’ well-being and their spiritual and religious needs during illness.”

To review the entire article, please click here

Many physicians and healthcare professionals struggle with the basic interaction beyond the medicine and hence miss the spiritual needs of their patients.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program 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 Certification Blog on Decisions After Your Gone: The Will

Death is such a feared subject that many families put off discussing it.  This prevents communication that can enhance closeness as well as clear miscommunication and heal old wounds.  Beyond the fear of death, discussing or thinking about the “what if” is even more dangerous if anyone neglects putting their wishes on paper if they die or if they are injured long term.  This can not only lead to a disregard of one’s wishes but also lead to multiple assets being misused or lost.

Everyone should have a Will, a Living Will and Power of Attorney document.  Like insurance, it does not mean one anticipates the worst, it merely means one is prepared for the worst.  When such documents are not prepared, after death, ensuing chaos can occur with bills, inheritance battles, state interference and overall bitterness.  Likewise, when someone is very sick, on a ventilator, a feeding tube, or in a coma, one’s wishes may or not be met.  A legal bind document can resolve these issues and ensure that what one wishes is properly handled.

There are three basic documents that ensure a calm legal atmosphere after death, or during a dying phase or possible long term illness.  The first is the Final Will and Testament.  This document ensures that one’s financial and legal business is resolved according to one’s wishes after death.   It first gives an individual the power to resolve all financial and legal issues in your name.  This individual is your personal representative and ensures that all expenses of funeral, bills and debts are paid immediately following death.  Utilization of existing funds as well as life insurance are used to pay off any debts.  This individual also ensures sell of property and transfer of inheritance and fulfillment of any final wishes.  Also extremely important are one’s final wishes at the funeral and how the body is to be respected, via burial or cremation.  Obviously, the executer of one’s will is important to ensure one’s wishes are met This executive of your will must be a very trusted person that you know will be around after your death.

Secondly, there are a variety of beneficiaries that are listed on the will.  You can distribute individual possessions but primarily, homes, cars, financial legacy are left to primary beneficiaries.   They can be listed in order as well, if one is no longer alive, proceeding down a chronological order.

A Living Will is important to ensure that one’s medical wishes are met. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

The legal binding of a will depends merely upon a signing an official form and having a non family related witness and notary sign it.  Some individuals prefer going to an attorney and that is fine as well. Ultimately, anyone, young or old, should have a Will in place.  As one becomes married, has children or accumulates assets, this becomes even more imperative.

Not all disasters result in death and this is why it is also important that one’s wishes are met in the final two documents; A Living Will and Power of Attorney.  These two documents are closely related.  One deals with medical issues while alive if unconscious or unable to make decisions and the other deals with giving a particular person certain powers to carry out your life.   A Living Will hence deals with a multitude of issues if you become extremely ill and unable to function.  A Living Will dictates medical procedures according to one’s wishes.

Among the numerous things that can arise during a medical emergency in which you lose consciousness can be how your care is to be properly administered.   How long do you wish to be left on a ventilator, or feeding tube?  If a comma results and one is brain dead, how long do you wish extraordinary measures to be carried out?  Do you wish to be resuscitated?   What is your preferred pain management?  Furthermore, do you wish to have organs donated if not listed on your license?   These are extremely personal decisions and if no written documentation exists to guide physicians or family, then one’s medical care can be dictated from outside sources.

A Power of Attorney plays an important role in this.  If a person is listed to fulfill your care needs while incapacitated then they can dictate the policies or if No Living Will is in place, carry out what you wanted from merely discussions although again this leads to the issue of trust.  A Power of Attorney bound to the dictates of a Living Will are always best.   The limit of the Power of Attorney is up to you.  The person can have only power during the illness, or be given only a certain amount of time.  Usually, the Power of Attorney also has other powers given to him or her.   They are able to access all legal and financial matters, access accounts and pay bills in your absence.   Again, the limitations are up to you in what your Power of Attorney can do and not do and for how long.   Again, due to death of others, sometimes, these documents need to be updated, but to have a person in place you trust is essential in planning.

Yes, death can be a difficult discussion but it is an important one.  This aversion to death and dying talk is not healthy.  It is part of life and can open many conversations that are critical to relationships but most importantly it can open discussions about legal and medical ramifications that are critically important.  Written and legally binding documents are essential to prevent disputes and one’s wishes not being honored.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches 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 Video on World Religions and Dying

When helping the dying, it is also critical to help them with their spiritual beliefs.  This may well involve one dealing with another one of a different faith.  It is important to try to find one a representative of one’s faith as soon as possible if death is approaching or if one needs spiritual rituals conducted, but if not, and it is not possible, it will be important to be able to sojourn with the dying.

It is important to respect the dying’s wishes, their religious beliefs and to listen.  It is also helpful to have some knowledge of other faiths and the beliefs that coincide with dying.  Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches 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.

 

Please also review the video on death beliefs

Pastoral Thanatology Program Video AIHCP

Care of the dying is essential.  All human beings deserve to die with dignity.  They deserve not just to have their physical needs met but also their spiritual, emotional and mental.  The dying deserve to die with dignity-minimization of pain and comfort.  They should die with kindness and love.  Unfortunately this is not possible for all, but for the ones who are able, family, chaplains and caregivers can provide the love and support to help the dying leave this world with peace.

Pastoral Thanatology is key in this.  It looks at pastorally helping the dying in all phases of human existence.  It goes well beyond the physical but also addresses fear and grief as well as helping family better help the soon to be deceased.

AIHCP offers a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology.  The program in online and independent study and is open to qualified professionals.

 

Please review AIHCP’s video for its Pastoral Thanatology Program

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Caregivers

Caregivers often suffer the most in their care of the ill.  This is especially true for loved ones who become the primary care givers.  Nurses also suffer seeing individuals slowly die as well.  This type of difficulty can cause problems for mental health and can lead to depression.  Those in pastoral care may also experience this type of depression.   So many times, caregivers put others first and forget about their own mental health.

After the death and sadness witnessed, many caregivers of the dying can become depressed. They need to ensure their mental health is also cared for. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

The article, “Hope for those suffering from caregiver depression” by Ann Nunnelly looks closer at care giver burnout and depression.  She states,

“The caregiver position is now including spouses, children, and grandchildren. Along with this responsibility comes a need for spiritual and emotional support so the caregiver doesn’t fall prey to depression and their own physical and emotional sickness. Did you know that rough statistics show that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for?  In addition, an increase in auto immune disease and depression haunts an exceptionally large number of caregivers. ”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program 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.

Chaplains, nurses, hospice and palliative care professionals are all excellent candidates for this program

 

 

Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Death and Dying

Family members who are slowly passing away is a common heart ache in families.  The slow process of the dying can lead to multiple emotions.  Anger, regret, hope, despair all mix with fearful anticipation of death but also a merciful end to the pain.  These conflicting emotions can put caregivers and other family members in difficult emotional states.  Counselors and pastoral caregivers can help these individuals, as well as the dying through this difficult process.

Caring for the dying is an emotionally difficult thing for living family. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology program

 

It is important though to understand the nature of the death, the process of dying and the emotional toll it takes on all parties.  Pastoral Thanatology is the type of counseling that many become certified in to help others learn to better accept and deal with the process of dying.

The article, “Understanding Grief for Still-Living Family Members”  from Ohio State University looks at some aspects regarding death and the living.  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 and to learn more about the study, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology program.  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 Spirituality and Death

Death is not the end to spiritual people.  Death is a continuation.  Many view death as primarily an end point and something to be avoided at all costs, but death is as part of life as birth and plays a pivotal role in our development.

Spirituality is key in death.  Many may view life in a more materialistic way, but even so, spirituality without a higher end can be beneficial to the dying.  Spirituality and a commitment to something higher or bigger than themselves.  The traditional ideal of spirituality sees this in regards to religion, faith and a God, while others may see it as a way of life, or giving to the greater cause of humanity.  Spirituality allows one to approach death with more dignity and understanding.

Spirituality is key in embracing death and understanding the nature of its role in life. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification

 

In David Kessler’s book, “The Needs of the Dying”. he addresses five important stages and elements of spirituality. In some cases, death or the news of death bring about this stages and to them the benefits of death open one’s soul.  Spirituality is for the mind and soul, not the body itself.  Death can bring about a healing of the soul for the future existence.

Kessler points out that the first step is expression.  Expression is needed in regards to one’s physical ailment.  One needs to let the anger or grief out.  Many are angry at God for suffering and misfortune or why they have a particular disease.  It is important to express the feelings of death to be able to face them and understand them.  No particular feeling is wrong or right but are catalysts to understanding.

Following expression is a spirituality of responsibility.  One begins to take account of one’s life and begin to understand that not everything in life was everyone else’s fault.  Taking responsibility allows one to humble oneself and identify issues of life that were once so black and white and maybe see that the issues and common factors were oneself.  It can present an important spiritual transformation that without death could never occur.

Naturally following responsibility stems forgiveness.  One does not wish to die bitter and angry but instead looks to forgive. Death can bring broken and shattered families together in forgiveness.  One is able to set everything straight and see things far more clearly than before.  Petty arguments and proud stances become trivial when one is about to lose his or her life.

Acceptance of the death is also an important step in dying.  One may not desire to die but it is important to accept death when no other route is left.  One needs to learn from oncoming death what life truly is.  This is only possible when one faces death and accepts it as part of his or her continuing journey.

Spirituality in death helps one accept responsibility of life, forgive, accept and be thankful for life.

In this, spiritually, one should find some sort of gratitude.  Life is not defined by what was accomplished or how long one lived, but a life is defined by birth and death.  No life is incomplete.  Each life has a certain amount of time.  Gratitude for life and what has been given is key in spirituality when dying.  It cherishes what has been given instead of lamenting what was taken.

Spirituality is important in dying.  It helps one to understand the comprehensive nature of death.  Death is no longer an end point but part of a process and something that is as important to life as birth itself.  If  you would like to learn more about Pastoral Thanatology and the science of dying, then please review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.