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Preparing for death

Family Forum advice about how to transition from this world to the next, gracefully and with character.

QUESTION:

My mother is dying of cancer. It has been a slow and painful process. I would like to help ease her transition from this world to the next but she says she no longer believes in God and therefore would not welcome the presence of a minister. Is there an alternative? How do people with no religion approach and accept death gracefully, without fear?

ANSWER: 

All religions share the common denominator of love and compassion. With this in mind an alternative for spiritual support may be a person who transmits love and compassion. That may be you. Encourage your mother to think of a time that was loving, hold that memory in her mind and breathe, deeply.

Fear is frequently experienced in transition, especially if there is unfinished business. Discuss what is left on the to-do list. Assisting with tying off loose ends is a practical way of supporting your mother.

If anxiety persists, consider asking her doctor to prescribe medication.

Many people report comforting insights as they near death and your mother may change her mind regarding a visit from a minister. Stay open to the process and above all value the simple act of holding her hand and affirming her life. Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote On Death and Dying taught that “people die in character”, which may explain why some people die gracefully.

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