Preparing for death means different things to all of us. Some people use their last days as a time to rebuild those bridges they burned in the past by making peace with those they have hurt or angered. Others choose to live out their final time by doing things they always wanted to do or seeing things they always wanted to see. Of course, if you are bedridden and unable to travel, this may be an obstacle to overcome if possible. Many people want their family with them every step of the way and others do not want their family to see them that way. Those who are religious either turn toward their religion for strength or away from it because they blame God for their death.
A Part of Life
The fact is, death is a part of life. To deny your death is to deny living because there has to be an end to everything so you can start on a new beginning.
According to Steve Taylor, Ph.D., “Death is always present, and its transformational power is always accessible to us, so long as we’re courageous enough to face it. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.”
There are five emotional stages of death, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
In the denial stage, you may try to pretend it is not true, that it must be a mistake. However, fighting death in this way can make it come even sooner because even if you pretend you are going to live forever, your brain knows the truth. The anxiety and stress will show in other ways and causes an increase in cortisol, which weakens your body. Denial can also stop you from living your life to the fullest while you have the chance.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross explained the stage of anger by saying, “In contrast to the stage of denial, this stage of anger is very difficult to cope with from the point of view of family and staff. The reason for this is the fact that this anger is displaced in all directions and projected onto the environment at times almost at random”
The anger may start out as accusing the doctor of being mistaken or being angry with your God because you want to live. Some people are envious of those who are not dying and get angry at them for not understanding. You may even feel like others deserve to die more than you do.
This stage is usually short and includes trying to bargain with God by being “good” instead of angry since that did not work. Trying to postpone your death by making a deal with yourself like telling yourself to live long enough to see your granddaughter get married. Making deals with yourself is a healthy option as long as it is positive. Having goals is a good way to keep yourself going and give you the energy to keep trying.
Being depressed is natural and can manifest itself in many ways. You may be sad that you are going to have to give up your job, hobbies, family, and friends. You may also be sad, knowing you will not be able to take care of yourself and that others, such as family members, will have to take care of you. Depression is a common occurrence in life as well as death.
The final stage of accepting death is the most important. Unfortunately, those who fight death may not be able to reach this stage. However, acceptance is the only way to move to the next life without regret. Nobody wants to die, but when it is inevitable, accepting it means letting go and being able to spend your last days enjoying those you love.
According to psychologists Paul Wong, Ph.D., and Adrian Tomer Ph.D., “There are numerous reasons for embarking on this positive exploration of a traditionally dark subject matter. These include a fuller understanding of the meaning of life and a better preparation for living well and dying well.”
During any of these stages, you or your family may feel the need to talk to someone. There are usually useful websites like BetterHelp to provide insight on what you’re going through, or hospital advocates and counsel that you can talk to, but you have to call them and get an appointment. At this stage in life, waiting is not an option. It is important to talk to someone now, while you are ready to do so. There are licensed therapists and psychologists online that you can see immediately, no wait, no appointments. Talking about things that concern you will relieve you of those burdens and let you enjoy the time you have left.